Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Íocaíochtaí Deontas.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

11 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil an t-iarratas le haghaidh an bhalla cosanta, Baile Thiar, Oileán Thoraí á mheas ina Roinn agus an gceadófar deontas ina leith. [5539/08]

Tá an t-iarratas a fuair mo Roinnse ó Chomhairle Contae Dhún na nGall ar 26 Samhain 2007 maidir le hoibreacha feabhsúcháin a dhéanamh ar bhalla cosanta ag Baile Thiar, Toraigh, ar chostas measta €120,000 á mheas faoi láthair. Déanfar an cás a bhreithniú ag tógáil san áireamh riachtanais na hoibre atá i gceist, an soláthar airgid atá ar fáil d'oibreacha den chineál seo i 2008 agus na héilimh éagsúla ar an soláthar sin.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

12 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Brian O’Shea den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mó scéim faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla atá ceadaithe anois; an ainmneoidh sé iad; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [5597/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

32 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Brian O’Shea den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mó dréachtscéim teanga faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 atá os a chomhair anois agus an ainmneoidh sé iad. [5598/08]

Tá i gceist agam Ceisteanna Uimhir 12 agus Uimhir 32 a thógáil le chéile.

Tá 74 scéim teanga, a chlúdaíonn 131 comhlacht poiblí ar fad, daingnithe agam agus foilsithe go dáta. Sa bhreis ar sin, tá 42 scéim teanga nua eile, a chlúdaíonn 79 comhlacht poiblí, á n-ullmhú. Ba mhaith liom a mhíniú don Teachta chomh maith go mbeidh tréimhsí ama na gcéad scéimeanna teanga a dhaingnigh mé i 2005 ag teacht chun deiridh i 2008. Dá bhrí sin, i gcomhréir le forálacha Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, sheol mé fógra, faoi alt 15 den Acht, chuig 19 gcomhlacht poiblí eile roimh Nollaig ag iarraidh orthu

athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar a gcuid scéimeanna, agus

dréacht-scéim nua (an dara scéim teanga dá gcuid) a ullmhú agus a

thíolacadh chugamsa le daingniú laistigh de sé mhí. Fágann sé seo go bhfuil os cionn 60 dréacht-scéim teanga san iomlán á n-ullmhú faoi láthair. Tá sonraí maidir leis na comhlachtaí poiblí a bhfuil scéimeanna aontaithe leo nó a bhfuil dréacht-scéimeanna á n-ullmhú acu ar fáil ar shuíomh idirlín an Choimisinéara Teanga, www.coimisineir.ie.

Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

13 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the breakdown of his recent announcement of grant assistance to the Orange Order; the effect it is envisaged the proposals will have on the communities of the Border region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5571/08]

I recently announced that funding would be provided for a development officer to address the needs of groups using Orange Halls in border counties. The monies will be allocated to Cadolemo Ltd, a company which is being established by Orange Order Lodges in Counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan, to support this innovative community-based initiative. The funding will amount to €120,000 per annum over a two-year period.

The work of the development officer will focus on the provision of support, training and mentoring in relation to capacity building and community development among the groups in question, as well as facilitating the securing of funding for the repair and refurbishment of Orange Hall facilities. Assistance for refurbishment works to a number of Orange Halls has separately been approved under the Locally-based Community Grants Scheme operated by my Department. The development officer will be expected to build on this by prioritising the further repair and refurbishment of facilities in the counties in question in consultation with the communities, local authorities and other relevant agencies. I am confident that this initiative will be well received by all communities in the border region as a positive statement that we respect and support all our citizens, and their traditions and identities, in this State.

National Drugs Strategy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

14 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the fact that the shortfall in detox and rehabilitation beds identified by the expert working group appointed by the Health Service Executive is hindering progress in terms of implementing the national drugs strategy; and if he has approached the Departments of Health and Children and Finance with a view to addressing the shortfall. [5439/08]

The Report of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation made a series of recommendations for the development of a comprehensive rehabilitation pillar under the National Drugs Strategy. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to implement these recommendations, including the provision of extra detox beds. A subsequent HSE Working Group, which focused on residential treatment needs arising from alcohol and drug misuse, also recommended increased detox facilities.

I can assure the Deputy that I am working to ensure that the commitment in regard to extra detox beds is fulfilled. I have had discussions with both the Departments of Health & Children and Finance regarding this matter and, indeed, I met with Minister Harney last month with regard to progressing the implementation of the recommendations of the Rehabilitation Report. In this context, it should be noted that my Department received additional funding of €12.5m for drugs initiatives in 2008 and part of this will be used for rehabilitation initiatives. Already this year, I have announced capital funding of €1.5m to eleven projects, a number of which focus on rehabilitation.

While the shortfall in detox and other residential rehabilitation facilities needs to be addressed further, I do not see this as hindering progress in terms of implementing the National Drugs Strategy. On the contrary, I see the increased focus on rehabilitation, which was added as a fifth pillar of the National Drugs Strategy following a Mid-term Review, as being very important in ensuring that the Strategy can cover the drugs problem in a comprehensive way. The Rehabilitation Report highlights the need for inter-agency co-operation and the need to ensure that there is a continuum of care in place for problem drug users coming out of either detox or other residential rehabilitation treatment. It is within the context of the overall rehabilitation effort that any additional detoxification and residential beds need to be considered so as to achieve a seamless progression by the client through the rehabilitation process. I am confident that real progress will be made on the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation in the short-term and I look forward to the benefits that this will bring to recovering drug users.

Job Creation.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

15 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied with the job levels, following the recent publication of the Údarás na Gaeltachta annual report; if he is further satisfied with the job creation levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5505/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

142 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied with the job levels, following the recent publication of the Údarás na Gaeltachta annual report; if he is further satisfied with the job creation levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5687/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 142 together.

I understand from Údarás na Gaeltachta that its 2007 Annual Report will not be published until later in 2008. However, according to the Chief Executive's end of year statement, 1,038 new jobs in total were created in 2007. Significant progress was made in job creation in various sectors, including the services and modern manufacturing sectors. Total employment in Údarás na Gaeltachta assisted companies now stands at 8,026. This is the first year since 2001 that the full-time employment level has exceeded 8,000. I understand that these employment figures are in line with the national trend and indicate continued employment growth in the services sector. A notable aspect of this year's out-turn is the growth in the modern manufacturing sector, an indication that Údarás' strategy of focusing on niche manufacturing is delivering positive results.

National Drugs Strategy.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

16 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the research carried out in relation to the use of illegal substances on a county basis; the determination of such research; if misuse is on the increase or decrease in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5581/08]

Currently research is not available in relation to the use of illegal substances on a county basis. The all-island Drug Prevalence Survey, first carried out in 2002/03 and repeated in 2006/07, is the best indicator of drug prevalence in Ireland. These surveys were carried out jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. I recently launched the first bulletin of the 2006/07 survey. For the first time this allows us to determine trends in the use of various drugs across different categories of the population between the ages of 15 and 65 through comparison of the outcomes of the two surveys.

The second bulletin of the 2006/07 survey, which will be published in early Summer, will provide a breakdown of the prevalence of drug usage on a regional basis (based on the former Health Board areas), again allowing us to track changes at that level. With respect to heroin in particular, a three-source Capture-Recapture Study is being undertaken by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and this will facilitate comparison (at a Dublin and Rest of Ireland level) with the results of a previous study carried out in 2000/01.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

17 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposed expenditure in 2008 under the RAPID and CLÁR programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5541/08]

Joe Costello

Ceist:

54 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a review of the effectiveness of the CLÁR and RAPID programmes is envisaged or proposed; the number of areas that have received funding under any aspects of the two programmes over each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5572/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 54 together.

€21.2 million has been provided on my Department's Vote for the CLÁR programme for 2008. The position in respect of the RAPID Programme is that €1.5 million for current and a capital allocation of €7.8 million in 2008 has been provided. The provision in my Department's Vote funds the community support and administrative costs of RAPID Area Implementation Teams (AIT) and Pobal and the capital cost of the RAPID Leverage schemes. As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, it is a matter for individual Departments to report on the provision of funding and progress on delivery with respect to projects under their responsibility in the RAPID areas.

An independent evaluation of the RAPID Programme, commissioned by Pobal at my request, was published in June 2006. This report is available on Pobal's website at http://www.pobal/media/Publications. The recommendations of this evaluation are currently being implemented. A Value for Money review of the RAPID and CLÁR leverage schemes operated by my Department in co-operation with a range of other Departments and Agencies is planned for 2008. I am providing further details on the programmes in the appendices to my reply.

Appendix 1 — RAPID

The RAPID Programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the 46 designated RAPID areas. As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, it is a matter for individual Departments to report progress under the RAPID programme. In support, Pobal collects data from each RAPID area in respect of funding allocations received by projects from Government Departments and local state agencies. The latest data in respect of the programme is available on Pobal's website under the RAPID section (http://www.pobal.ie/live/RAPID). The Deputy may find it helpful to access this information. I understand that full data in respect of the year 2007 will not be collected until early 2008.

I initiated the leverage schemes in 2004 in order to support small-scale projects identified locally by the Area Implementation Teams in each of the RAPID areas. These schemes are co-funded by the relevant agencies and fund projects that focus on estate enhancement, graffiti removal, traffic calming, CCTV, health and sports facilities, and the provision of playgrounds. Earlier this year I agreed to co-fund the provision of facilities in schools located in, or mainly servicing children from, RAPID areas. Each of the 46 RAPID areas are allocated €66,000 under the playgrounds leverage scheme, €100,000 under the traffic calming measures leverage scheme and €100,000 under the Housing Estate Enhancement Leverage scheme. Differing levels of funding are allocated in each RAPID area under the Health Co-fund and Sports Capital Programme. The total allocation by my Department for each County is set out in the table below:

Funds Allocated to Projects under Leverage Schemes 2004-2007

County

Rapid Area

Amount

Dublin

10,629,505

Cork

Cork City, Mallow, Youghal

4,292,060

Limerick

Ballynanty & Kileely, King’s Island, South City

1,649,023

Waterford

Waterford

1,060,023

Louth

Drogheda & Dundalk

2,049,852

Wicklow

Bray

829,154

Westmeath

Athlone

709,860

Wicklow

Athy

670,272

Galway

Galway, Ballinasloe & Tuam

1,879,881

Carlow

Carlow

743,000

Tipperary

Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Tipperary Town

1,767,593

Cavan

Cavan

461,641

Clare

Ennis

1,116,750

Kilkenny

Kilkenny

1,004,100

Longford

Longford

530,566

Meath

Navan

381,477

Wexford

Wexford & New Ross

899,128

Sligo

Sligo

1,162,453

Kerry

Tralee

675,103

Total

32,511,441

Total capital expenditure by my Department in all RAPID areas under the leverage schemes for each of the years 2004 to 2007 amount to 16.264m as set out in the table below:

Expenditure under Leverage Schemes 2004-2007

Year

Expenditure

€m

2004

1.98

2005

4.52

2006

4.45

2007

5.32

Total

16.26

In addition, I have provided €2m to support initiatives in RAPID areas undertaken by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to install community CCTV and remove graffiti.

Under the initial round of funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund approximately €32m was approved for projects based within RAPID areas. Following enactment of the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005, funding totalling over €19m has been ring-fenced to support priority projects in RAPID areas in 2006 and 2007.

In addition, I have provided €2m to support initiatives in RAPID areas undertaken by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to install community CCTV and remove graffiti. Under the initial round of funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund approximately €32m was approved for projects based within RAPID areas. Following enactment of the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005, funding totalling over €19m has been ring-fenced to support priority projects in RAPID areas in 2006 and 2007.

Appendix 2 — CLÁR

CLÁR

The CLÁR Programme provides funding and co-funding to Government Departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities to accelerate investment in selected priority developments. These investments support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures. The measures introduced under the Programme reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas. A budget of approx €21.2 million has been allocated to the programme for 2008. The table below sets out the expenditure by county from 2002 to 2007 under the CLÁR programme.

Expenditure on Clár Schemes by County 2002 to 2007 (€)

County

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Carlow

96,632

Cavan

862,755

808,301

704,741

1,283,033

1,348,860

1,044,000

Clare

987,590

544,665

1,270,569

1,630,756

1,494,120

1,010,825

Cork

1,230,439

589,760

769,792

670,102

2,238,508

1,740,705

Donegal

1,073,862

946,670

984,888

1,399,037

1,691,604

1,974,962

Galway

967,306

159,333

1,756,410

1,369,626

970,561

1,195,530

Kerry

1,468,524

638,618

931,777

1,003,080

1,816,185

1,671,757

Kilkenny

20,038

216,170

Laois

206,706

109,067

Leitrim

1,882,396

1,083,257

1,581.902

595,841

2,782,131

1,587,227

Limerick

90,000

38,000

25,601

15,000

290,775

264,996

Longford

335,793

221,577

175,184

239,383

542,395

563,690

Louth

287,033

330,421

379,532

168,951

204,398

220,943

Mayo

2,326,137

1,280,045

1,631,274

2,474,475

4,911,703

5,439,585

Meath

87,170

10,000

34,049

25,284

36,770

71,248

Monaghan

200,666

154,936

200,482

266,812

734,841

817,111

Offaly

104,755

35,244

Roscommon

1,121,942

951,788

590,674

1,103,716

1,492,703

1,993,496

Sligo

854,427

523,049

642,272

752,065

1,554,606

459,783

Tipperary

254,234

132,312

231,834

112,544

411,113

364,786

Waterford

178,408

140,318

281,422

82,666

310,474

Westmeath

100,040

21,459

65,065

69,292

71,194

126,118

Wicklow

15,000

Total

14,139,318

8,612,597

12,116,364

13,443,634

23,006,640

21,329,361

Grant Payments.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

18 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of grants made under his Christmas Lights as Gaeilge initiative; the organisations which benefited; the extent to which the use of the Irish language was promoted in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5596/08]

The following organisations have received funding to date under the initiative referred to by the Deputy:

Year

Organisation

Amount

2006

Dublin City Centre Business Association

11,331

2007

Gaillimh le Gaeilge

57,750

2007

Cumann Tráchtála Clár Chlainne Mhuiris

45,000

As I have indicated in previous replies to similar Questions, my Department provides funding under the Fo-Chiste Gnó of Ciste na Gaeilge to voluntary and business groups to assist in promoting the Irish language among local business communities. In order to qualify for such funding, a group must provide a business plan to include specific targets relating to the promotion of Irish and a clear exposition as to how these targets will be met. Funding from my Department is provided on the basis that matching funding (to a minimum of 25%) is secured by the applicant from the local authority or from the local business community.

I am satisfied that the organisations to which funding has been provided have fulfilled these criteria and that the Irish language was promoted in an integrated and cohesive manner in accordance with the business plan provided by each organisation. Finally, while the Fo-Chiste Gnó is open to new applications, I should again reiterate that funding is limited and it may not be possible to meet all requests made.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 10.

Irish Language.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

20 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the development of the 20 year strategy for the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5593/08]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

46 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has engaged consultants to assist in preparing a strategy on the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5514/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 46 together.

As I have indicated previously in replies to Questions in this House, the Government published its Statement on the Irish Language in December 2006. That Statement provides for the development of a 20-year Strategy for the Irish language, which is intended to be the foundation for practical action for supporting and promoting the language, based on a modern, integrated approach. My Department undertook a public procurement process in relation to the appointment of consultants to advise in relation to the Strategy. Two tenders were received, neither of which were deemed, following an independent assessment process, to meet all of the Department's requirements. Subsequently, my Department opened negotiations with one of the unsuccessful tenderers, Fiontar, Dublin City University, who have now been appointed as consultants on the basis of a revised proposal.

It was envisaged at the time of the Statement's publication that it would take up to two years for the Strategy to be prepared. I am confident that this target will be achieved and that process of preparation of the Strategy will be completed this year.

Youth Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

21 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding provided by his Department for youth cafes; the location of this funding; the plans to increase such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5589/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department does not operate a specific scheme or programme to support youth cafes, however, my Department does operate a number of programmes and schemes where some funding is available for the purposes of youth cafes. Details of all the programmes and schemes operated by my Department can be accessed on the Department''s website at www.pobail.ie. I can confirm that a number of youth cafes have received some funding from my Department, details of which are listed below.

Under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF) Mountain Park, Tallaght Youth Service (Foróige), received Capital funding of €175,000 in 2005 to establish a Youth Health Café. Under the Emerging Needs Fund, funding has been allocated through Tallaght Local Drugs Task Force in 2008 towards a full-time worker to co-ordinate the running of the above Youth Café and to provide Outreach, Group Work and Health Programmes. In the Dublin 12 Local Drugs Task Force area, the "Somewhere to Go" Project has also been allocated funding in 2008. Other facilities funded under the YPFSF provide a safe space for young people to drop in. They also benefit from the activities that are on offer.

A small number of Youth Cafés with a strong drug education dimension are being supported on a pilot basis under the Regional Drug Task Force plans consistent with the education & prevention pillar of the National Drugs Strategy. These are located in Ennis, Shannon, Kilkee, Westport and Swords. Funding of €20,000 has also been approved by my Department under the CLÁR Community Initiative measure for Co. Roscommon Youth Services Co. Ltd. to provide support, projects and programmes including a youth café for local youths. Two organisations providing youth café facilities have also been funded under the 2006 Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations, they are as follows:

Glounthaune Community Association — Refurbishment — €3,936

The Crib Youth Project & Health Café, Foroige — Equipment — €1,513Since the beginning of 2006, 8 projects providing grants to youth cafes have been approved for support from the Dormant Accounts Fund. Details of these grants are set out in the table attached at Appendix 1.

Appendix 1

Dormant Accounts Funding Measure

Name of Group

County

Grant Amount

Purpose of Funding

Projects Tackling Alcohol Related Harm

Monaghan Youth Federation

Co. Monaghan

50,000

Castleblaney Youth Café.

Projects Tackling Alcohol Related Harm

MFG Comhar Dhuibhne

Co. Kerry

100,000

Funding to support youth café.

Priority Projects in RAPID Areas

Athy Town Council

Co Kildare

200,000

Funding to support youth café.

Priority Projects in RAPID Areas

Limerick Youth Service

Co Limerick

219,000

Funding to support youth café.

Priority Projects in RAPID Areas

Navan School Completion Programme

Co Meath

34,105

Funding to support youth café.

Priority Projects in RAPID Areas

Tipperary Regional Youth Service

Co Tipperary

150,000

Funding to support youth café.

Priority Projects in RAPID Areas

Youghal Youth Committee (in partnership with Foroige)

Co Cork

162,474

Funding to support youth café.

Young Persons Recreation Supports

Southside Partnership

Co Dublin

29,600

Funding to support youth café.

Total

945,179

National Drugs Strategy.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

22 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action his Department has taken to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in relation to the report received by that committee in July 2006 on cannabis use; if he or his officials have met that report group since; the results of such a meeting or meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5583/08]

In December 2006 my predecessor as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., met with the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in relation to the report on cannabis that it published the previous July. At that meeting he outlined his position, which I support, with respect to the seven recommendations of the report.

Some of the recommendations of the report deal with issues such as the provision of support for further neurobiological and clinical research and the provision of integrated treatment programmes for those with concurrent mental illness and substance abuse issues. While in broad terms I have no difficulty with the points raised, these issues fall under the remit of the Department of Health & Children, at a policy level, and the Health Service Executive, at an operational level.

The report also called for a National Strategy on the cannabis problem and for public information campaigns focusing on that drug. I think that it is more effective to continue to tackle drugs through a comprehensive National Drugs Strategy, covering all illicit drugs including cannabis. This is particularly so now as there is increasing evidence of polydrug use. The National Drugs Awareness Campaign, led by the HSE and which I launched earlier this week, is focused on cocaine use among younger people as available evidence suggests that this should be a priority at this time. Meanwhile, cannabis has continued to be targeted by the Gardaí and the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners, as evidenced by the recent cannabis seizure in Co. Kildare valued at €10m.

I have initiated the process that will lead to the development of a new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016. I already attended at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in January and I stressed that I would welcome their input to that process. I also intend that any new Strategy will tackle the problems associated with all illicit drugs, including cannabis.

Job Losses.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

23 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has held discussions with a company (details supplied) in County Mayo or with Údarás in relation to recent job loss announcements. [5512/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have no formal role in relation to discussions regarding the operation of companies in receipt of assistance from Údarás na Gaeltachta. I have been informed, however, by an tÚdarás that discussions took place recently between their representatives and representatives of the company regarding the company's future.

The Deputy will by now be aware that, following an announcement on Monday last, the situation within the company is not as serious as had been suggested beforehand. I have also been assured by an tÚdarás that they will continue to work towards identifying new business opportunities for the facility with a view to maintaining employment in the company.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

24 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans or proposals to ensure a document (details supplied) or a document of a similar nature is given to every school and every relevant age group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5587/08]

I have already arranged, following consultation with the Minister for Education & Science, the recent circulation of an earlier more comprehensive publication from the same source to all second level schools. The Deputy may now be familiar with this publication, as I have circulated it to all Oireachtas Members this week. I see this publication as providing very useful information for our young people. In some cases differing views are put forward in the document on how to tackle aspects of the drugs problem and I see it contributing to debate in our society on the drugs issue at a time when a new National Drugs Strategy for 2009-2016 is being considered.

Meanwhile, on Monday I launched the National Drugs Public Awareness Campaign, which is led by the HSE. As part of that campaign two information leaflets, "Know the facts about drugs" and "Cocaine the facts" have been published and are available through Health Promotion Unit of the HSE or through www.healthinfo.ie.

Community Development.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

25 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of the recently announced RAPID thematic strategy; the targets and objectives that are expected to be reached in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5518/08]

The 2006 evaluation of the RAPID Programme indicated that the experience of the Programme has been very positive in many areas and that it has made substantial progress in identifying the needs of disadvantaged communities and in implementing important local projects in response to those needs. The evaluation recommended that a future Programme should be developed under a number of key Strategic Themes. These were Community Safety & Anti-social Behaviour, Family, Youth, Physical Environment, Education, Health and Employment/Training.

A national framework for the development of these strategic themes is now in place and will support the development of strategies and plans to respond to the issues within a local context identified by the Area Implementation Teams (AIT). Each Department/Agency with responsibility for the strategic themes has prepared guidance for the AIT that includes objectives, performance indicators and targets. These will be further developed within the AIT in each RAPID area. I launched the Health, Family and Community Safety and Anti-social Behaviour themes on 30th January 2008. Responsibility for the development of each strategic theme rests with the lead Department or Agency.

Irish Language.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

26 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussion he has had with the Department of Education and Science in regard to the proposed Irish Language Education Centre in Baile Bhúirne, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5594/08]

I would like to indicate at the outset that the issue of the proposed Irish Language Education Centre in Baile Bhúirne, County Cork is primarily one for the Minister for Education and Science. However as I have already indicated to the House, I have had discussions with the Minister for Education and Science on different occasions with regard to the development of these facilities at Baile Bhúirne, County Cork. Discussions have also taken place between officials of my Department and the Department of Education and Science with a view to progressing this matter. These were attended by senior representatives of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta.

The Deputy may be aware that my Department provides various supports for the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, some of which are channelled through the Education system. My Department and Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to assist in any way possible with the development of the Irish Language Education Centre in Baile Bhúirne in the future.

Drug Seizures.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

27 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views in relation to the major drug find in County Kildare on 6 February 2008; if he had meetings with the relevant authorities in regard to such a find; his plans to protect such communities as those in the county of Kildare where areas of the county appear to be used as bases for drug activity for the Dublin market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5575/08]

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the major drug find in County Kildare, to which the Deputy refers, as well as the recent overall significant level of drug seizures and associated arrests made by the Gardaí. I am advised that the recent successes are directly attributable to increased law enforcement at all levels through intelligence driven operations.

It would not be my normal practice to hold meetings with the Gardaí on specific operations and I have not met with them in regard to the Kildare find. However, I regularly meet with Garda representatives to keep up-to-date with developments in respect of their drug-related operations. Reports on their progress are also made to the Inter Departmental Group on Drugs, which I chair. Similarly, I also have regular contact with representatives of the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners, who are also playing a major part in drug seizures, and with the Dept Justice, Equality & Law Reform through the structures of the National Drugs Strategy.

The protection of communities in Kildare and elsewhere, whether in relation to threats linked to illicit drugs or otherwise, is a central part of the remit of the Gardaí and the actions and deployment of resources to counter such threats is an ongoing operational matter for them.

Tourism Development.

John Perry

Ceist:

28 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the level of funding to be made available in 2008 under the LEADER programme for the development of rural tourism; the regions that will be targeted by this investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5516/08]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

33 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the meetings he has had or is proposing to have with the Department of Agriculture and Food in relation to the development of rural areas and with a specific view of developing agri-tourism; if he has granted funding in relation to such development; if so, the persons to whom and the amount of funding involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5590/08]

John Perry

Ceist:

44 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has initiated a study into the development of farm based tourism; his intentions in relation to the development of farm based visitor attractions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5519/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

141 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the level of funding that will be made available in 2008 under the LEADER programme for the development of rural tourism; the regions that will be targeted by this investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5686/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 33, 44 and 141 together.

The new Rural Development Programme for Ireland 2007-13 will be delivered by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. My Department is responsible for the delivery of Axes 3 and 4 of the Programme. Axis 3 focuses on the Quality of Life in rural areas and diversification of the rural economy, while Axis 4 deals with the administration of the Local Action Groups who will deliver the measures in Axis 3. Specific measures and projects under the Programme, including agri-tourism projects will be approved through the Local Action Groups that deliver the Programme on the ground throughout the country.

Axis 3 and 4 of the new Programme include measures which should provide significant opportunities in the rural/agri-tourism sectors. Two measures, in particular, are relevant. Firstly, the Diversification into Non-Agricultural Activities measure, which has an overall budget of €16.66m, and will support the development of tourism facilities and the development of niche tourism and educational services. Secondly, the objective of the Encouragement of Tourism Activities measure, with a budget of €45.4m, is to maximise the tourism potential of all rural areas. The allocations referred to are for the duration of the Programme; there is no specific allocation for any one year. The areas to be covered will be those outside the local authority boundaries of the "Hub" and "Gateway" towns and cities identified in the National Spatial Strategy.

My Department maintains regular contact with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in relation to the implementation of the Programme, including tourism measures. In addition, no specific discussions have been held with that Department on tourism related issues but discussions with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and Fáilte Ireland in relation to the specific tourism-related measures in the Programme take place as required.

My Department has not grant-aided agri-tourism projects but Local Action Groups involved in the delivery of past LEADER Programmes have. I have not commissioned any studies into the development of farm-based tourism; however, the Programme does provide for such studies or analysis where required.

Irish Language.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

29 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with the Department of Education and Science regarding the provision of education through Irish in Gaeltacht regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5517/08]

I am in regular contact with the Minister for Education and Science with regard to various matters involving the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, which are relevant to both our Departments. As part of its Gaeltacht remit, my Department provides a range of support measures for the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, some of which are delivered through the education system. However, as the Deputy will be aware, the provision of education in the Gaeltacht is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

30 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if it is within the remit of local drug task forces to liaise with schools, particularly with senior cycle classes; if he will establish a formal link between the local drug task forces and schools, which would serve to further educate young people about the dangers of drugs and drug abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5521/08]

It is open to Local Drug Task Forces to liaise with schools through the various projects that are funded in their areas of operation. Also the Department of Education & Science is represented on Local Drug Task Forces (LDTFs), as well as on the other National Drug Strategy groups. However, the links between LDTFs and schools are not on a formal basis across all Drug Task Forces.

Underlying the Deputy's question is the importance of the education of young people and their level of awareness in regard to the dangers of illicit drugs. Since my appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, I have repeatedly stressed the importance of prevention. At the same time I am not sure if it is necessary to have formal links at local level, rather it may be best to encourage initiatives developed in a local context.

Meanwhile, through the Walk Tall programme at primary level and the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme at second level, all school children now receive substance misuse prevention education as an integral part of their curricula up to Junior Certificate level. I have raised the issue of extending SPHE to the senior cycle with the Department of Education & Science on a number of occasions, most notably through the Inter-departmental Group on Drugs which I chair. In that regard there seems to be particular scope for bringing more focus on drugs education in the Transition Year. The Department is looking at these issues and it is hoped that some progress can be made for the next school year.

Meanwhile, I can confirm that prevention measures will be among the issues that will be considered by the Steering Group that I have established to work on the development of a new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016.

Grant Payments.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

31 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding he has allocated through the grant programmes operated by his Department to each constituency for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5586/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department administers and delivers a wide range of programmes and measures, descriptions of which are available on its website at www.pobail.ie. While expenditure under these programme areas takes place countrywide, it is not possible to give a constituency breakdown of that expenditure. For example, a number of my Department's programmes are delivered through agencies and other intermediary bodies that operate across constituencies and these bodies do not provide the Department with a detailed breakdown of expenditure on a constituency basis. In addition, groups and organisations that receive grants directly from my Department are not necessarily constituted on a single constituency basis.

In view of the wide range of my Department's schemes and programmes and the large volumes of applications received thereunder on an ongoing basis, I am satisfied that the work involved in compiling and collating a full constituency-by-constituency breakdown of expenditure would exceed the information value of such statistics. If, however, the Deputy would like specific information in relation to a particular county and/or scheme, I would be glad to arrange to have consideration given to any such request.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 12.
Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 28.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

34 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Feis Ceoil is urgently seeking subventive arrangements to secure its future; and if he will make funding available to this end. [5438/08]

I have no Ministerial responsibility in relation to funding of initiatives such as this. I understand that funding was in the past provided to the Feis by the Arts Council.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

35 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas maidir leis an mbagairt don Ghaeilge sna meáin chlóite mar gheall ar chinneadh Fhoras na Gaeilge gan tacú le plean tarrthála an nuachtáin Gaeilge Lá Nua agus an bhagairt anois go mbeidh ar an nuachtán sin dúnadh dá bharr agus an gá leis an Aire gníomhú gan mhoill chun an t-aon nuachtán laethúil Gaeilge a shlánú. [5435/08]

Tuigim ó Fhoras na Gaeilge nach bhfuil cinneadh déanta acu gan tacú le Lá Nua. Tá deontas a sholáthar ag Foras na Gaeilge do Phreas an Phobail le Lá/Lá Nua a fhoilsiú ó bunaíodh an Foras. Tuigim, áfach, go bhfuil cinneadh déanta ag Bainistíocht Phreas an Phobail gan leanúint de bheith ag clóbhualadh ó 1 Márta. Shínigh an comhlacht conradh aontaithe, tar eis comórtas oscailte, le Foras na Gaeilge i 2006 le haghaidh páipéar laethúil a fhoilsiú agus mar chuid de sin bhí spriocanna aontaithe maidir le díolacháin, líon leathanach, srl.

I gcás go mbrisfear an conradh aontaithe, tuigtear dom go mbeidh ar Fhoras na Gaeilge comórtas nua oscailte a reáchtáil. Anuas ar aon rud eile, tuigtear go bhfuil dreamanna eile a chuirfeadh isteach ar chomórtas le haghaidh nuachtán leictreonach, ach a leithéid a bheith fógartha ag an bhForas, ach nach gcuirfeadh isteach ar chomórtas le haghaidh nuachtán fisiciúil. Beidh rogha ag an bhForas comórtas le haghaidh páipéar fisiciúil, nó nuachtán leictreonach, nó an dá rud, a fhógairt má tá conradh nua i gceist.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

36 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position of the decentralisation of his departmental offices; the cost to date of such decentralisation; the cost of a transfer of his Department on a temporary basis or the cost of leasing buildings and so on to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5579/08]

To date, 79 of the 140 staff of my Department originally due to relocate to Co. Mayo have transferred to an interim location in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, pending the acquisition of a site and the building of a new headquarters at Charlestown, Co. Mayo. It is planned to increase the number at the interim location to just over 100 from March 2008. The Department has already fulfilled its commitment to relocate 10 officers to Na Forbacha, Galway.

Non-property costs incurred by my Department to end-July 2007 amounted to €817,467. The Office of Public Works has also incurred costs of about €650,000 in relation to accommodation for my Department's decentralisation programme.

National Drugs Strategy.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

37 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the breakdown of all funding provided to local drug task forces; the research that has been carried out in relation to the effectiveness of such funding; the area that commands the greatest need for funding; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5591/08]

A total of €21m in current funding has been allocated to date in 2008 to the 14 Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTFs). A broad range of factors influence the level of funding at Drug Task Force level, including the needs identified, the quality of projects proposed, population and the size of the area involved. A breakdown of the current funding allocated by LDTF is detailed in the table below. Some capital funding is also available for LDTF projects under the Premises Initiative.

An Expenditure Review of the LDTFs completed in late 2006 found that:

the LDTF programme has been effective and highly relevant to the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy;

extensive measures have been implemented to address the drug problem at a local level; and

there are indications of high cost benefit ratios of projects such as those delivered through the LDTF programme.

The Review also identified some areas for improvement and substantial progress has been made in that regard. More recently an evaluation of nearly 300 interim funded Local Drugs Task Force projects has been carried out and the report on this is expected to be finalised shortly.

Local Drugs Task Force

*2008 allocation to date

Ballyfermot

1,865,603

Ballymun

1,270,730

Blanchardstown

1,168,684

Bray

1,646,273

Canal Communities

1,626,384

Clondalkin

1,337,948

Cork

798,570

Dublin 12

1,337,948

Dublin North East

1,259,577

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

933,091

Finglas/Cabra

869,675

North Inner City

2,745,555

South Inner City

2,392,736

Tallaght

1,270,328

Cross Task Force

454,386

Total allocated

20,977,488

* Figures in respect of previous years will be supplied on request to my Department.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

38 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the interdepartmental group on the national drugs strategy last met; if policy decisions or recommendations regarding the implementation of the national drugs strategy were considered at the meeting; the recommendations the group made to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5513/08]

The Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs (IDG) last met on Thursday, 13 December 2007. Among the issues discussed were:

development of a new National Drug Strategy 2009-16;

implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation;

an update on progress in implementing the recommendations of the joint National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and National Drug Strategy Team (NDST) report on cocaine, including a presentation on the new National Drugs Awareness campaign;

updates from the HSE and Dept Health & Children on a number of drug-related topics;

report on accommodation issues (linked to the recommendations of the Rehabilitation Report) from Dept Environment, Heritage & Local Government;

report from Dept Social & Family Affairs on ancillary benefits in the context of problem drug users;

report from Dept Education & Science on prevention and awareness measures;

reports from the Gardaí and the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners on drug seizures; and

updates on Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund and from the NACD and the NDST.

No recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, Children and Integration arose from this meeting.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

39 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the full extent of funding available through his Department for disbursement to the various community based bodies involved in drug treatment programmes in 2008; the number of applications received to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5540/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of drug treatment programmes funded by his Department; the extent to which he will increase this in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5811/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he proposes to increase the number of drug treatment programmes funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5812/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the need to extend and increase funding to those providing drug treatment programmes in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5813/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to increase funding to community groups involved in combating drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5816/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 146 to 148, inclusive, and 150 together.

Tackling the problem of drugs misuse is a key priority of the Government. This commitment is evidenced by the increasing levels of funding provided to my Department to tackle the drugs issue. The allocation of over €63m this year represents an increase of 28% on the 2007 allocation. This allocation will facilitate progress towards the fulfilment of commitments in the Programme for Government in regard to initiatives to facilitate rehabilitation and to tackle the problem of cocaine, the development of Drug Task Force projects and the increased targeting of "at risk" young people through the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund.

The majority of expenditure allocated to community groups through my Department for drugs initiatives is channelled through the Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTFs), the Regional Drugs Task Forces (RDTFs) and the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF). Local and Regional Drug Task Force projects normally originate at community level and are submitted through Drug Task Forces to the National Drugs Strategy Team who make recommendations to me on funding. Again, under the YPFSF, projects are normally brought to the Development Groups for the 18 urban areas involved. The Development Groups submit proposals as they see fit to the National Assessment Committee of the YPFSF, chaired by my Department, and recommendations to me arise from there.

Over 440 Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) projects, including those under the Emerging Needs Fund, are receiving funding from my Department. The 2008 allocation for such projects shows an increase of 9.5% over the amount spent in 2007. In the region of 200 of these projects focus on treatment and rehabilitation. Across the ten Regional Drug Task Force (RDTF) areas, work is progressing on the implementation of their Action Plans with the level of expenditure expected to increase by 40% this year. In 2007 a total of 67 treatment and rehabilitation projects were approved for funding and this is expected to rise to around 90 in 2008. In addition, all Drug Task Forces can access capital funding under a Premises Initiative. Already this year, I have announced capital funding of €1.5m to eleven projects, a number of which focus on treatment and rehabilitation.

With regard to Co. Kildare, funding was made available to the Community Drug Team for Kildare and West Wicklow last year and €0.34m will be allocated for this in 2008. Some of the other funding provided to the South West Area RDTF will also provide benefit across their region of operation, including Co. Kildare. On top of this, a sum in the region of €170,000 has been made available to Teen Challenge, a rehabilitation project at Shechem House, Richardstown, Co. Kildare, arising from applications through the South Inner City LDTF in Dublin. Meanwhile, capital funding of €22,354 was approved to Newbridge Family Resource Centre in June 2007 under the Premises Initiative for the purchase and installation of a semi-permanent structure to provide a dedicated drop-in facility for "at risk" youth. I can assure the Deputy that adequate resources will continue to be made available to support drug treatment programmes.

Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the effectiveness of youth clubs in relation to community development in view of the changes in respect of the number of different nationalities that constitute each community area; the grants available or planned from his Department to assist with the advancement of such clubs or the need to restructure such clubs to meet the changing demographics of communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5570/08]

My Department operates a number of programmes and schemes that support young people in their communities and that are complementary to supports offered by other Departments and Agencies. Details of all the programmes and schemes operated by my Department can be accessed on the Department's website at www.pobail.ie. A number of schemes are delivered through locally based bodies that can respond flexibly to changing community circumstances. Young people are also considered a specific target group under a number of key programmes such as the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme and the National Drugs Strategy.

Each of these schemes and programmes is governed by eligibility criteria that applicants must meet in order to receive funding from the Department. My Department does not operate a specific scheme or programme to support youth clubs.

Calafoirt agus Céanna.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

41 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na céanna i nDún na nGall a bhfuil iarratais ina leith ina Roinn faoi láthair le haghaidh deontas tógála nó feabhsúcháin agus an mbeidh deontais á gceadú ina leith. [5538/08]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá scéimeanna éagsúla ag mo Roinn le haghaidh deontas tógála nó feabhsúcháin i leith céanna, mar shampla scéimeanna Gaeltachta/Oileánda agus an clár CLÁR. Faoi láthair tá iarratais ag mo Roinn ó Chomhairle Contae Dhún na nGall i ndáil leis na céanna seo a leanas:

Rannaigh

Inis Bó Finne

Cladach na gCaorach

Málainn Bhig

Mucros

Ros na Coire (An Machaire)

Clúid an Churraigh (Oileán na Cruite)

Machaire Gathláin

Tulaigh Oileáin

Cé na hÁithe (Ailt an Chorráin)

Cionn Caslach.

Tá an cás maidir le deontais a cheadú faoi scéimeanna Gaeltachta/oileánda mo Roinne chun na saoráidí seo a fheabhsú á mheas faoi láthair, ag tógáil san áireamh riachtanais na hoibre, an soláthar airgid a bheidh ar fáil d'oibreacha den chineál seo i 2008 agus na héilimh éagsúla ar an soláthar sin.

Mar eolas don Teachta, tá scéim ar leith faoin clár CLÁR bainteach le calaí, céanna agus creimeadh cósta. Cuireann an scéim seo maoiniú ar fáil chun calaí agus céanna a fhorbairt i gceantair CLÁR, má tá riachtanas ann d'áiseanna feabhsaithe. Mar eolas don Teachta, cuirtear iarratais faoin scéim seo go díreach chuig an Roinn Talmhaíochta, Iascaigh agus Bia agus níl aon tionchar ag an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta i roghnú nó monatóireacht na dtograí. Aontaíonn an dá Roinn, áfach, ar liosta na dtograí atá le maoiniú ar bhonn bhliantúil.

National Drugs Strategy.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

42 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action taken by his Department in relation to the report of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on the inclusion of alcohol in a national substance misuse strategy in July 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5584/08]

In its ninth report published in July 2006, the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, recommended that alcohol should be included in a new national substance misuse strategy. In December that year my predecessor as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., met with the Joint Committee and indicated that he had an open mind on the issue and was supportive of exploiting any potential synergies that are identified. I would support this view.

Also in December 2006, a Working Group on Alcohol and Drug Synergies was established by the Department of Health & Children, which has overall responsibility for the coordination of alcohol policy, to explore the potential for better co-ordination between the two areas and I receive regular up-dates on their progress through the Inter-departmental Group on Drugs which I chair. The report of that Group is likely to be available in the coming months and any recommendations arising will be considered by the Steering Group that I have established to work on the development of a new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016.

Meanwhile, I attended at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in January and I stressed that I would welcome their input to the process that will lead to a new Strategy.

Security of the Elderly.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

43 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the grants available through his Department or agencies under the remit of his Department that deal with security in the family home, particularly those of senior citizens; the meetings he has had or proposes to have with the Garda authorities to examine this security position especially from a rural perspective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5582/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department operates the Scheme of Community Support for Older People, which is designed to foster community support for older people through the provision of community-based grants that improve the security of people aged 65 years of age and over. Details in relation to this Scheme can be accessed on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

For completeness I should also mention that funding is being made available under Dormant Accounts to assist community based supports for older people. Details of the grants are also available on my Departments website. While no meetings have taken place at Ministerial level with the Gardaí in relation to security in the family home, I can confirm that officials in my Department have ongoing contact with the Garda authorities and groups who administer the Neighbourhood Watch/Community Alert Schemes.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 28.

Rural Development.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

45 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the decisions and outcomes of meetings and discussions that have taken place between him and the Ministers of State in his Department in relation to rural issues over the past 12 months. [5520/08]

I and the Ministers of State at my Department engage in regular discussions about the development of policies, programmes and operational matters across the range of my Ministerial functions with each other and with officials. Such discussions tend to be ongoing as policies are refined and programmes are reviewed and improved or changed. Generally no formal record is kept of such discussions.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 20.

National Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

47 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the significant piece of research undertaken by the Ballyfermot local drugs task force in 2007 and the needs that were identified on foot of that research; and if he will ensure that ample resources are made available to meet those needs. [5436/08]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Strategic Plan that has been prepared by Ballyfermot Local Drugs Task Force. In December 2006 the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST) invited the Local Drug Task Forces (LDTFs) to undertake a process of strategic review to identify the extent to which the services being provided meet current needs and to consider what changes and improvements might be considered. On completion of the reviews by the LDTFs, they will be reviewed by the NDST with a view to developing an overall strategic approach for the future. It is anticipated that this process will feed into the work that has started on the development of a new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016.

I am advised that the Strategic Plan prepared by Ballyfermot LDTF has been submitted to the NDST and that it is being considered by them at present. I expect that a copy of the finalised document will be forwarded to me in due course and I will consider any recommendations therein in the context of the development of a new Strategy.

Irish Language.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

48 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent of the work of the placenames branch to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5515/08]

The Placenames Branch of my Department undertakes research in order to establish the correct Irish language forms of the placenames of Ireland and to publish them for official and public use. The Branch has provided Irish forms for placenames in all counties. The most public manifestation of its work can be seen on the Irish versions of placenames on the bilingual road signs throughout the country.

The Branch is engaged in a comprehensive research programme to provide Irish versions for all placenames in the State on a county basis. Seven counties have been completed and published under this programme to date, namely, Counties Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Offaly, Tipperary and Waterford. Research has been completed on Counties Dublin, Galway and Wexford and will be completed in Counties Cork, Clare and Leitrim by 2009. Substantial research has been undertaken on the placenames of the other counties and these counties will be completed in the medium future.

The recent work of the Branch also includes providing Irish language versions of the administrative placenames in the Gaeltacht areas of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford and it has just completed work on some 5,500 non-administrative names in these areas, that is, names shown on Ordnance Survey Ireland's large-scale maps. The Branch has responsibility for preparing draft Placenames Orders for An Coimisiún Logainmneacha, who in turn advise me under section 5 of the Official Languages Act 2003. I have made ten Placenames Orders on the advice of the Commission to date and three further orders are planned for 2008, namely, for Counties Dublin and Galway (except for Gaeltacht areas), and for minor and non-administrative placenames in Gaeltacht areas.

The Placenames Branch is also engaged in a joint project with Ordnance Survey Ireland, with the collaboration of local authorities, to provide authoritative Irish versions of approximately 35,000 streetnames in cities and towns throughout the State. Irish versions have been provided for almost 20,000 streetnames to date. This two-year programme is due for completion at the end of this year.

In addition to its programmes, the Branch researches and provides Irish language versions of placenames to customers on request each year. The Branch is responsible for providing Irish language placenames under the CLÁR bilingual signage scheme. This scheme, which is sponsored by my Department, encourages and funds local communities to erect signs showing the names of their townlands in Irish and English in CLÁR areas.

The Placenames Branch publishes the results of its work on a county basis in the Liostaí Logainmneacha series, County Tipperary being the most recent volume. Volumes for other counties will be published as Placenames Orders are made for these. A new enlarged version of Gasaitéar na hÉireann / Gazetteer of Ireland will be published this year. The Branch also has a programme to publish in book form the evidence for, and explanations of, the names it has researched. The Branch recently published a volume on certain aspects of the placenames of County Tipperary (Logainmneacha na hÉireann II: Cill i logainmneacha Co. Thiobraid Árann, Pádraig Ó Cearbhaill, 2007) and two further volumes are in preparation covering the placenames of County Wexford and placenames in one area in County Cork.

The Placenames Branch is currently working in collaboration with Fiontar in Dublin City University to develop an online searchable national database of placenames. A pilot version of the database will be available to a limited number of users in early April next and it is planned to have the full database available to the public by November of this year. The database will contain information on over 100,000 names, including the names of all the administrative units in the country, a certain number of non-administrative placenames, and all the streetnames within the State.

All the Irish versions of placenames that have been determined by the Placenames Branch to date, including both those that have been given legal status by Placenames Orders and those that are not yet covered, will be given; an estimated 40,000 Irish forms in total. The Irish versions of the streetnames will also be given. The evidence on which the Irish forms are based is being included and this will be made available to the public at a later date. In addition, the database will also contain a sound recording of each placename. The database should prove to be an invaluable asset for all who require not only the Irish forms of placenames, but also general information on the placenames of the country.

Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

49 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Michael D. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na hathruithe ar chumhachtaí agus feidhmeanna Údarás na Gaeltachta a bheidh sa Bhille um Údarás na Gaeltachta atá geallta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [5600/08]

Tá cinneadh déanta agam ar an cheist maidir le cumhachtaí agus feidhmeanna an Údaráis a mheas sa chomhthéacs níos leithne a eascraíonn as na moltaí atá sa Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíoch ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht a foilsíodh le déanaí. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá Coiste Comh-Aireachta bunaithe ag an Rialtas chun moltaí an staidéir seo a scrúdú agus plean gníomhaíochta comhtháite don Ghaeltacht a aontú laistigh de bhliain.

Committee Reports.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

50 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions he has taken as a result of the reports commissioned over each of the past five years by the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5560/08]

The reports commissioned by the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in the last five years that are relevant to the areas of responsibility of my Department are as follows:

Volunteers and Volunteering in Ireland

The Treatment of Cocaine Addiction, with Particular Reference to the Irish Experience

The Inclusion of Alcohol in a National Substance Misuse Strategy

What Everyone Should Know about Cannabis

Drug Abuse in Ireland — a Waterford Perspective

In view of the short timeframe available for reply to this Question, I am arranging for my Department to collate the information requested and to provide it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Drugs Strategy.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

51 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his view on the fact that all local drugs task forces except two are situated in Dublin; and if, in view of the prevalence of illegal drug use and related crime outside of Dublin, he will take steps to establish additional local drugs task forces in areas such as, for example, Limerick and Waterford. [5437/08]

Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTFs) were established in 1997 in the areas considered to be experiencing the worst levels of opiate misuse. Twelve areas in Dublin — Ballyfermot, Ballymun, Blanchardstown, the Canal Communities, Clondalkin, Dublin North Inner City, Dublin South Inner City, Dublin 12, Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown, Finglas-Cabra, North East Dublin and Tallaght were involved, as well as Cork City. Bray was later added in 2000.

Subsequently ten Regional Drugs Task Forces (RDTFs) were set up in 2003, covering all parts of the country not covered by an LDTF and thus achieving full coverage of the country. Following extensive consultation processes, each RDTF prepared a Strategic Plan and the implementation of these Plans is now progressing. With the increased level of activity at RDTF level, I am satisfied that Drug Task Forces are making considerable progress across the country in relation to the problems of illicit drugs. A sub-group of the Mid-West Drugs Task Force has recently been established to focus on Limerick City. Last month I allocated an extra €1.3m, on top of the funding already available to the RDTF, specifically for initiatives in Limerick City. I anticipate that this funding will facilitate a significant response to the drug problems there in the short-term.

Allocations totalling €200,000 have been approved to date this year for 9 Waterford projects through the South East RDTF. Further South East RDTF projects provide benefits broadly across the whole region, including Waterford. At this point I do not feel that a separate structure for Waterford City is warranted. Meanwhile, I have established a Steering Group to make recommendations to me on a new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016. The work of that Steering Group will include the review of the operational effectiveness of the structures of the current Strategy.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

52 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of meetings he has had with the drinks industry in relation to underage binge drinking and the effect of advertising of the drinks industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5569/08]

The issue of alcohol policy is primarily one for my colleague, Mary Harney, T.D., Minister for Health & Children. Consequently, I have not had meetings with the drinks industry in relation to the issues you mention.

At the same time, I recognise that there is significant potential for synergies between the National Drugs Strategy and the approach to the abuse of alcohol in our society. Indeed, a Working Group on Alcohol and Drugs, chaired by Dept Health & Children, is exploring the potential for better co-ordination between the two areas and I receive regular up-dates on their progress through the Inter-departmental Group on Drugs which I chair. Furthermore, the Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform has recently established the Government Alcohol Advisory Group to look at aspects of the problem pertaining to his Department.

As is the case with illicit drugs, it is clear that the abuse of alcohol, including underage binge drinking, is leading to many problems in our society, particularly in regard to health, public order and crime. I am of the view that any proposals that emerge aimed at tackling these problems deserve serious consideration.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

53 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he has taken to implement the proposals of the final report prepared for the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs of July 2005 on the treatment of cocaine addiction with particular reference to the Irish experience, particularly in relation to aspects of the conclusions and recommendations (details supplied); if he consulted with this expert group since it presented the paper; if so, the form it took; the facilities that have been put in place to provide assessment of treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5585/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

153 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the strategy, in view of the recent survey carried out (details supplied) regarding the use and availability of cocaine in the Tallaght, Clondalkin, Ballyfermot and Lucan areas, of his Department in tackling this widespread use; the new measures he proposes to introduce to respond to this latest crisis; and if he will support the measures recommended by the NACD and the NDST in the joint report, An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland II. [5867/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 153 together.

Arising from concerns expressed about the emergence of cocaine in our society in 2005, including through the report of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, my predecessor as Minister for State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., requested the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the National Drug Strategy Team (NDST) to examine the issue and to report back to him with a set of recommendations on how best to tackle the problem. He also approved funding for a series of pilot cocaine projects and a number of programmes to train people to an appropriate level to deal with users of cocaine. Furthermore, under the Emerging Needs Fund, he approved funding in 2005/06 for 6 cocaine specific projects and 9 other projects that had a polydrug focus.

With respect to the drugs education/awareness aspect of the Joint Committee report to which Deputy O'Sullivan refers, I must emphasise that a skills based approach with a focus on all drugs has been a fundamental driver of the National Drug Strategy's prevention pillar. Through the Walk Tall programme at primary level and the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme at second level, all school children now receive substance misuse prevention education as an integral part of their curricula up to Junior Certificate level and I have raised the issue of extending SPHE to the senior cycle with the Department of Education & Science.

On 30 January last I attended at a meeting of the Joint Committee to discuss the cocaine issue and I outlined the Government's response to its emergence as a problem. The implementation of the recommendations of the joint National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and National Drug Strategy Team (NDST) report "An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland II", to which Deputy Ó Snodaigh refers, forms the recent basis of that response. I am vigorously pursuing the implementation of the recommendations of the report with the HSE, the Gardaí, Drug Task Forces and others, through the Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs which I chair. The recommendations principally relate to treatment but also cover supply, prevention and research.

With regard to treatment, some stimulant specific treatment interventions are recommended though it is accepted that drug services generally should be capable of catering for the individual problem drug user, regardless of the drugs they use. The HSE, at the last IDG meeting in December, indicated that they are satisfied that existing services can be re-engineered to meet the needs and they have rolled out a significant training programme in partnership with the Waterford Institute of Technology.

I have secured funding for initiatives to tackle the cocaine problem this year and I will be using part of this to develop cocaine awareness campaigns at a more local and regional level to dovetail with the National Drugs Awareness Campaign, which I launched last Monday and which focuses on cocaine use among the 15-34 years age group. The choice of cocaine, and the targeting of younger people, arises directly from the evidence of the 2006/07 Drugs Prevalence Survey, which itself confirmed the findings of the joint NACD/NDST report mentioned above. I am satisfied that the steps we are taking will have a real impact on the cocaine problem in Ireland.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 17.

Security of the Elderly.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

55 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had or proposes to have meetings with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the telephone companies that provide land line services as a means of addressing the unacceptable cost to the senior citizen of the installation of a land line telephone service and thus the reason that many such senior citizens have not got security systems attached to their home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5592/08]

Officials in my Department have ongoing discussions with a range of groups concerned with the welfare and security of older people, including the Garda authorities and groups who administer the Neighbourhood Watch/Community Alert Schemes. However, my Department has no role in relation to the installation of landline equipment.

My Department operates the Scheme of Community Support for Older People. This scheme is designed to foster community support for older people through the provision of community-based grants that improve the security of people aged 65 years of age and over. Any locally based community and voluntary organisation working with older people can apply to my Department for funding. Funding is available for a range of security measures for older people under this Scheme, including measures which do not require a landline. Full information in respect of the scheme is available on my Department's website www.pobail.ie.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

56 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North-South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to relevant EU programmes, that is, INTERREG; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5762/08]

The Territorial Cooperation Objective is the successor to the INTERREG Programme in the 2007-2013 round — it is informally known as the INTERREG IVA Programme. As well as those areas of Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of the Republic of Ireland (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth) that are eligible under the current INTERREG IIIA Ireland/Northern Ireland Programme, parts of the west coast of Scotland will now also be eligible in the new round of funding. This is because part of the Irish coast is less than 150km from the western Scottish coast. The Managing Authority for the Programme is the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

In total, the European Union has provided €192m (in current prices) towards the Territorial Cooperation programme in the 2007-2013 period. Member States will supplement this with an additional €64m Exchequer funding bringing the total programme budget to €256m.

The Interreg IVA Programme was formally submitted to the European Commission for approval in June 2007. It was formally approved by the European Commission in November 2007. The NSMC Sectoral Meeting of 7 November 2007 welcomed the adoption of the EU North-South Programmes. The Operational Programme is open for applications and Steering Committees are now actively considering project proposals screened by the Joint Technical Secretariat.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

57 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason, in view of the requirement under section 62 of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 and section 1094 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for a tax clearance certificate in order to hold a liquor licence for cultural institutions, an application certificate is not accepted in lieu of a tax clearance certificate to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations as is permitted under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5836/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

58 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason, in view of the requirement under section 49 of the Finance Acts 1909 to 1910 and section 1094 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for a tax clearance certificate in order to hold a liquor licence, an application certificate is not accepted in lieu of a tax clearance certificate to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations as is permitted under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5837/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

64 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason, in view of the requirement under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Auctioneers and House Agents Act 1947 and section 1094 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for a tax clearance certificate in order to hold an auctioneer’s or house agent’s licence, an application certificate is not accepted in lieu of a tax clearance certificate to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations, as is permitted under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5912/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 58 and 64 together.

The Standards in Public Office Act 2001 does not require only the submission of an application statement or tax clearance certificate, as the Deputy's questions imply. Briefly, it requires the submission to the Standards in Public Office Commission of either a tax clearance statement or an application statement, plus in either case a statutory declaration by the person concerned that to the best of his or her knowledge or belief, he or she was tax-compliant at the time of making the declaration and nothing prevented the issue to him or her of a tax clearance certificate.

The Act provides for the request for, and issue of, an application statement where a person has applied for a tax clearance certificate to the Collector-General of the Revenue Commissioners and

no decision has been taken on the application by the Collector-General, or

the Collector-General has refused to issue a certificate but the refusal is the subject of an appeal yet to be determined.

In accordance with the Act, the Collector-General will, on request, provide an application statement to the applicant confirming that the person has applied for a tax clearance certificate and that no decision on the application has been made. Under the Act, the person is deemed not to be in breach of the requirement to produce a tax clearance certificate until such time as the application for a certificate is refused and the refusal has not been appealed or an appeal has not been upheld. In this circumstance, the Collector General must inform the Standards Commission of the refusal. The Standards Commission must produce a report on the matter which in the case of Oireachtas members (including office-holders) must be submitted to the Select Committee on Members' Interests of the relevant House and must be laid by that Committee before the Houses, and in the case of others covered by the 2001 Act must be submitted to the head of the public body concerned.

There are a number of differences between the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 and other tax clearance legislation, reflecting the different circumstances of the groups to whom they apply. Responsibility for the administration of the various tax clearance schemes is assigned in legislation to the Revenue Commissioners.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

59 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing legislation that would add registered veterinary premises to the definition in section 268 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to enable veterinary practitioners to avail of the industrial buildings allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5698/08]

As I have indicated previously, while I am a supporter of properly focused, clearly defined specific tax reliefs, such reliefs narrow the tax base. A broad tax base is the price that must be paid to keep tax rates low and low tax rates benefit businesses generally in this country, including that of veterinary practitioners. Any proposal for new tax reliefs has to be considered in this context. At this point I have no plans to introduce a new tax break for the provision of financial assistance to registered veterinary practitioners for the upgrading of their practice premise. Veterinary practitioners can qualify for wear and tear allowances on plant and machinery used in their business in the normal way.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

60 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of his changes to the VAT code in the Finance Bill 2008, he will make similar changes to the level of VAT charged to community groups for the purchase of defibrillators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5832/08]

I assume the Deputy is asking for the rate of VAT applied to the supply of defibrillators to be reduced. The Deputy should be aware that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, I would point out that the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service depends on the nature of the good or service and not on the status of the consumer. Accordingly, there is no provision in EU law that would permit the removal or reduction of VAT based on the social or economic status of the consumer.

In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators. Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

61 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax allowances and credits due to a person who is the father of three children and is living with the mother of the said three children, which partner is not employed outside of the home; if that person is entitled to tax credits for said three children. [5842/08]

I am assuming in this case that the Deputy's question refers to an unmarried cohabiting couple with children. On that basis, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the main tax credits and reliefs available to a person in the circumstances set out in the question are as follows:

the single person's tax credit of €1,830;

the employee tax credit of €1,830 (assuming the individual is in PAYE employment); and

relief in respect of health expenses for himself and his 3 children and, for the tax year 2007 onwards, for his partner. For the three years prior to 2007, any claim in this regard would be subject to a de minimis deduction of €125 if the claim is for one qualifying person or €250 if the claim is for more than one qualifying person.

The first €35,400 of his income is taxable at 20% and the balance is taxable at 41%.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, other than the incapacitated child tax credit, there are no tax credits available in respect of children and that the one parent family tax credit is not due in cases where a parent is cohabiting with a partner as man and wife.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

62 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in relation to the exemption from capital gains tax enjoyed by sporting and certain other bodies provided that no portion of the body’s income or property is paid or transferred, directly or indirectly, by way of dividend, bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit, to the members, the use by such a body of the capital sum paid to it in connection with a land swap deal for the purposes of subsidising membership fees at a rate that would otherwise be uneconomic and unsustainable could be held to amount to a return of profits by the body to its members and so be in breach of the rules relating to the exemption from CGT for such bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5892/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) for sporting bodies is contained in Sections 235, 610 and Schedule 15, Paragraph 37, Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 235 gives an Income Tax exemption to sporting bodies, which have been approved by the Revenue Commissioners on the basis that the body was established for, and exists for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports. The exemption extends to the proportion of the income of the approved body as has been, or will be, applied to the sole purpose mentioned above. This approval may be withdrawn.

The CGT exemption is given to an approved body to the extent that the proceeds of any disposal (or if greater, the consideration) are applied to the sole purpose of Section 235. The specific circumstances surrounding a situation where the proceeds of a land swap were used to reduce membership fees would have to be considered in the context of that case in order to examine what the implications would be for CGT (and perhaps Income Tax) exemptions, and on the body's approval status.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

63 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will re-examine the rules for the primary medical certificate in relation to supports for drivers with a disability in view of the fact that numerous applicants have been refused the primary medical certificate because of the regulations and therefore they are being prevented from buying vehicles which will give them a better quality of life. [5902/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations. As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 57.

Health Service Allowances.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

65 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork in respect of domiciliary care allowance in February 2007 can be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5719/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

66 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the action, in chronological order, she, her Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to health care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5760/08]

Prior to the suspension of all Ireland Institutions in 2002, the five North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) agreed areas for North/South cooperation in relation to health care were Accident and Emergency, Health Technology, Cancer Research, Emergency Planning and Health Promotion. In the period 2002 to 2007, the Institutions continued on a care and maintenance basis and significant progress was made in the five designated areas of cooperation. Progress was also made on North/South cooperation in other areas of health such as Suicide Prevention, Pandemic Flu Planning, GP Out of Hours Services and Child Protection. Since the restoration of the Institutions in May 2007, both Health Departments have agreed to undertake a Feasibility Study on the potential for future cooperation. A Project Board representative of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Department of Health & Children, the Health Service Executive and Cooperation And Working Together (CAWT) has been established to oversee the Study and it is expected that a final report will be published later this year.

Since the restoration of the Executive in Northern Ireland, I have met with the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to discuss progress on North/South cooperation in the health sector. A full NSMC Health Sector and Food Safety meeting also took place last November, when progress on North/South cooperation in health was reviewed.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

67 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the situation of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if there is any source of funding for minors in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5696/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. In regard to the Deputy's question on funding, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to create an orthodontic fund in the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to treat children who have been waiting the longest for treatment. Officials from my Department will examine the steps involved in advancing this issue while also having discussions with the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

68 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5702/08]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the individual hospitals concerned. The HSE is therefore the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

In 2005, at my request, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) set up a number of out-patient pilot projects. Public hospitals are invited by the NTPF to participate in the out-patient pilot scheme to treat public patients who are waiting longest for first time appointments with a consultant. NTPF is currently accepting and agreeing proposals from public hospitals for 2008. It is planned that up to 13,500 out patient appointments will be offered this year under the scheme.

Grant Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

69 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve the application by an organisation (details supplied) for a grant in the amount of €145,000 to host an International Family Day Care Organisation conference in July 2009, as part of Ireland’s current presidency of the IFDCO; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5769/08]

The Department of Health and Children have received an application, for a grant allocation of National Lottery funds, from the organisation referred to. There is a protocol in the Department of Health and Children for processing applications for National Lottery grants. Following assessment, evaluation and recommendation applications are considered in the context of the overall level of funds available. This application is one of many under consideration for a grant from the Department of Health and Children and the organisation in question will be informed as soon as a decision has been made.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

70 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be assisted. [5770/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

71 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the funds allocated to the nursing home subvention scheme in 2007; the increase in funds allocated for 2008; the scope that exists to deal with cost increases charged by nursing homes in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5771/08]

Budget 2007 provided an additional €85m in respect of the nursing home subvention scheme, which included €30m for enhanced subvention. As the Deputy will be aware the subvention scheme is being replaced by an improved system of nursing home support, A Fair Deal. The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is at a very advanced stage and is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. It is intended to introduce the scheme on a national basis once the necessary legal and administrative arrangements are in place and the existing subvention scheme will be phased out over time. This year, an additional €110m is being provided for the introduction in 2008 of the new scheme and the development of long-term residential care services.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

72 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that there is a moratorium on increases under the nursing home subvention scheme and enhanced subvention scheme pending the introduction of the fair deal scheme; if she will consider the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork faced with an increase of €60 per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5772/08]

There are no plans to change the rate of subvention. As the Deputy will be aware the subvention scheme is being replaced by an improved system of nursing home support, A Fair Deal. The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is at a very advanced stage and is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. It is intended to introduce the scheme on a national basis once the necessary legal and administrative arrangements are in place and the existing subvention scheme will be phased out over time.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

73 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no treatment for anorexia has been offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose husband has been employed here for four years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5779/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Homeless Persons.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

74 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the expenditure by the Health Service Executive on services for homeless people in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Dundalk in each of the past four years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5803/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

75 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if a separate allocation is made by her Department to the Health Service Executive for services to the homeless or if the funds come from the general HSE budget; the funding made available by the HSE for the provision of services to the homeless in each of the past four years; the amount of that funding that was spent; the allocation made for 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5804/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

76 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will have the necessary treatment as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5805/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

77 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 5 February 2008, the number of appeals which have been rejected by the health repayment scheme appeals office up to 1 February 2008; the number of originally rejected applications which have received an offer following a review by the appeals office; the number of appeals which sought a review of the original offer which were rejected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5807/08]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. The Appeals Office does not reject appeals, it makes a determination as to whether the Scheme Administrator's decision should be upheld.

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has informed my Department that as of 1 February 2008, the Appeals Office has issued a total of 546 decisions. Of this total figure, 467 cases relate to claimants who were rejected by the Scheme Administrator. In 67 of these cases the Appeals Office has disagreed with the decision of the Scheme Administrator, which will result in an offer being made to the claimant. The remaining 79 cases in which the Appeals Office has issued decisions relate to appeals which sought a review of the original offer from the Scheme Administrator. In 48 of these cases the decision of the Scheme Administrator was upheld by the Appeals Office.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

78 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when the accident and emergency unit at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise will open; if the unit will open at full capacity or on the same basis as the current unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5820/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

79 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that the accident and emergency unit at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise is under staffed with resultant health and safety issues for the patients and staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5821/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

80 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will seek guarantees from the Health Service Executive that the medical card public counter service currently provided at a health centre (details supplied) in Dublin 24 will be retained; if her attention has been brought to the importance of this local service to the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5824/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter addressed and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

81 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason adult patients are unable to access general anaesthetic dental treatment at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5848/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

82 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the final report from the vaccine damage working group; the recommendations of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5854/08]

The Group is continuing with its consideration of this matter, and is consulting with a number of representative bodies and individuals. I look forward to receiving its report and recommendations shortly.

Health Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

83 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the report, Taking the first steps to a Healthier Fettercairn, launched in September 2007; and the actions she will take to address the many serious issues raised in the report. [5860/08]

I am conscious of the complex range of social and environmental circumstances which affect Fettercairn and a number of other disadvantaged urban areas around the country. The health services have a key role to play in working with communities and a range of other statutory and non-statutory interests to ensure a co-ordinated and integrated response in such areas.

I am also aware of the research study entitled "Taking the First Steps to a Healthier Fettercairn" which was launched in 2007. In this regard, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has indicated that it met with Fettercairn Community Project Team on 26th November 2007 to discuss and progress implementation of the report's recommendations on health services. The HSE continues to liaise closely with the Project Team. The Primary Care Strategy aims to develop services in the community to give people direct access to integrated mutli-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others.

It has been estimated that up to 95% of people's health and social services needs can be properly met within a primary care setting and the establishment of new Primary Care Teams can contribute greatly to enhancing community based services. The HSE received additional funding of €40m over the period 2006 to 2008 for the establishment of some 200 primary care teams involving 600 front line professionals. The Programme for Government commits to ensuring that there is a primary care team serving every community, with particular reference to new and rapidly growing areas. The HSE has indicated that it intends to establish 3 Primary Care Teams in the West Tallaght area and that a needs assessment has been commenced to establish the precise needs of the area.

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. This includes operational responsibility for the selection and recruitment of general practitioners to provide services under the General Medical Services Scheme and also the selection of locations for Primary Care Teams. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

84 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the possible health implications from dust and rock blasting as raised in the Taking the first steps to a Healthier Fettercairn report launched in September 2007; and if her Department has had contact with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the issue of dust emissions and its possible effect on local residents. [5861/08]

These issues are for the relevant local authority to consider.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

85 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if Tallaght Hospital has the busiest accident and emergency trauma hospital in the State; and if it is €18.2 million in red and was recently financially penalised by the Health Service Executive. [5880/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

86 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a shortage of six physiotherapists at Tallaght Hospital; and the way this is affecting patients recovery and care. [5881/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

87 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a shortage of social workers at Tallaght Hospital; and the way this situation is affecting patients and their families. [5882/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

94 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a shortage of pharmacists in Tallaght Hospital; if this situation is increasing the workload on already overstretched nursing staff; and her views on the possible effect this is having on patient care. [5889/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 87 and 94 together.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

88 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the centre of excellence designation being awarded to St. James’s Hospital, she will move cancer surgery from Tallaght Hospital from 2009. [5883/08]

The decisions of the HSE to designate four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. Prof. Tom Keane took up his post as National Cancer Control Director in November 2007. The delivery of cancer services on a programmatic basis will serve to ensure equity of access to services and equality of patient outcome irrespective of geography. This will involve significant realignment of services to move from the present fragmented system of care to one which is consistent with international best practice in cancer control. Prof. Keane has advised that meetings and discussions are underway with the eight designated centres and with the non-designated hospitals currently providing cancer services, including Tallaght Hospital in order to manage the transition. A detailed transitional plan will be put in place to facilitate the progressive, gradual and carefully managed transfer of services over the next two years or so.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

89 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the removal of overnight beds for sick children from Tallaght Hospital and the proposed move from Our Lady’s in Crumlin to the Mater Hospital will mean that there will be no overnight beds for sick children on the south side of Dublin city. [5884/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

90 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposal to replace the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght with an urgent care centre will mean that there will be no overnight beds for sick children in the hospital. [5885/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

I am aware of the concerns previously raised regarding the level of service to be provided at Tallaght in the context of the development of the National Paediatric Hospital. It should be noted that currently the vast majority of children attending the National Children's Hospital Emergency Department do not require admission, and will continue to access their care at the new Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre which is to be developed at Tallaght. It has been estimated that when the first Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre is developed at Tallaght it will cater for approximately 48,000 emergency attendances, 9,000 day cases and 58,000 out-patient attendances. Clearly the projected level of activity would change depending on the number of such centres to be developed. My Department has asked the HSE to reply directly on the specific operational issues raised in the Deputy's questions.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

91 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is only one accident and emergency consultant assigned to Tallaght Hospital despite it being the busiest accident and emergency department in the State. [5886/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

92 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding was to be set aside for a new CT scannner in Tallaght Hospital; the status of that proposal; and if the outdated machinery is having a detrimental effect on patient care in the hospital. [5887/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

93 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if one ward in Tallaght Hospital is short seven and a half nurses; if there is any prospect of those positions being filled in the near future; and her views on whether this is having a detrimental effect on access and care in the hospital. [5888/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 86.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

95 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if Tallaght Hospital is short of an anaesthetist; if this is leading to operations being cancelled or delayed particularly for elderly patients awaiting hip operations; and the steps being taken to resolve this crisis. [5890/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

96 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for a hip operation in Tallaght Hospital. [5891/08]

Statutory responsibility for the collation, management and publication of data on waiting times and numbers of persons waiting for surgical procedures rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Infectious Diseases.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

97 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on establishing an official register to record deaths from hospital acquired infection; if such a register is in place; if there are proposals to set up a register; her views on whether such a register would allow for accurate data to be compiled to assist in controlling this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5893/08]

At present I do not have any plans to establish a new register specifically for recording deaths from hospital acquired infections. However, the monitoring and control of Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) is a priority for this Government and the HSE. A HCAI is an infection that someone may get after a stay in hospital or after receiving medical treatment. Such infections are most often linked to treatment in hospitals but can happen after treatment in outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other health care settings. The more medical care a person requires, the more likely they are to develop an infection and HCAIs are most common in people with serious illnesses or risk factors, such as patients who require a long period of stay in a health care setting or patients with weakened immune systems.

It is not currently possible to identify the number of fatalities attributable directly or solely to HCAIs as most cases involve significant co-morbidity factors. In November 2006, a coroner's court recorded what is believed to be the State's first verdict of death by MRSA infection. The coroner ordered that deaths due to hospital infections must be reported to the coroner. The proposed Coroners Bill 2007 now defines MRSA as a reportable death. A National Surveillance System has recently been established by the HSE to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our health system:

1. Staphylococcus bacteraemia;

2. Antibiotic consumption;

3. Alcohol gel use;

4. MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The data for 2006 is currently being finalised and a report will be released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the near future. This report will include rates of MRSA bloodstream infection, listed by individual hospital. Data for 2007 will be available in early 2008 and MRSA bloodstream infection rates for all publicly funded hospitals will be published quarterly thereafter. All of this will greatly assist in the monitoring of improvements in infection control.

Clostridium difficile, which is another significant HCAI, is not at present a notifiable disease and, as a result, it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. However, Clostridium difficile infection was examined in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty-six patients had Clostridium difficile representing 0.5% of patients studied. My Department, in conjunction with the HSE, is actively considering the addition of a small number of diseases including Clostridium Difficile to the list of notifiable diseases. This will be finalised as soon as the EU issues a new list of case definitions. In the meantime I am arranging that Clostridium Difficile be included as an organism which is notifiable under the category acute infectious gastroenteritis. This will in effect make Clostridium Difficile notifiable in the short term.

The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in health care settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

Improvements on hygiene are critical to effective infection control. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertook a comprehensive review of hygiene in our hospitals in 2007 against hygiene standards developed by the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. HIQA published its report, the National Hygiene Services Quality Review, on 13th November, 2007. The report represents a thorough assessment of how hygiene services are provided and managed in 51 HSE-funded acute care hospitals. Hospitals generally performed well on hygiene in the service delivery area. Most hospitals achieved either extensive or exceptional compliance with the standard in the service delivery section of the report. However, the results were poor on governance.

While the good hygiene practice of front line staff highlighted in the report is vital, real improvement in this whole area also depends heavily on good leadership and a system of governance. HIQA is currently working with managers and clinicians to develop national standards for Infection Prevention and Control. When completed these, along with the national hygiene standards, will provide a comprehensive framework to help reduce the spread of infection and improve the quality of our health care. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infections and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

98 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is anxious to be seen by the orthodontist as they have been diagnosed as needing treatment for their dental condition; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5894/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

99 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people over 66 years in Dublin 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; the number of people over 66 years in Wicklow, Kildare/west Wicklow, in Laois/Offaly and in Longford/Westmeath; the number of public bed facilities available for elderly people in each of the foregoing geographical areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5895/08]

The 2006 Census of Population records that there were 122,369 people in the age category 65 plus living in the Dublin/Mid-Leinster region. It also records that there were 92,487 people in this category living in the Dublin/North East Region. The recently published 2006 Survey on Long Stay Activity Statistics (available on the Department's website) provides a summary of individual long stay units, including the geographical information requested. A copy of the report has been posted directly to the Deputy. I would also like to advise the Deputy that the HSE has indicated that it will be opening an additional 100 long stay beds early in 2008 in a new Community Nursing Unit at St Mary's Hospital in the Phoenix Park.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

100 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be found for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [5921/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

101 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 59 of 29 November 2007 regarding the issue of interest owing to long stay patients, the recommendations and conclusion as a result of these meetings; the estimate of the value of interest which is owed to patients; when repayment will commence; the cost of the administration of this repayment programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5922/08]

The Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it is progressing with the task of transferring past interest retained on invested Patient Private Property Accounts. A process to undertake this transfer has been agreed and the HSE is now making final arrangements to commence repayments, initially for the period 2005-2006. The Department has been advised by the HSE that it is working on proposals to refund interest retained on the investment of PPP funds prior to 2005. The HSE anticipates that these proposals will be forwarded to the Department as soon as possible for further discussion and agreement. Until these proposals are agreed, the HSE indicated that it will not be in a position to provide estimates of the cost of administering these refunds. The overall estimate for total refund of interest remains as previously advised, approximately €31m or approximately €48m when adjusted for inflation by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

At the most recent meeting of 8 November 2007 on this issue, the Department requested that the HSE should proceed as speedily as possible with proposals to refund past interest retained. The Secretary General also wrote to the HSE on 19 December 2007 asking that the matter be progressed as a matter of urgency.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

102 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the supports and assistance available through her Department or the Health Service Executive for the families and carers of people with acquired brain injury or who have suffered a stroke; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5939/08]

David Stanton

Ceist:

103 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the organisations that provide services to people who have suffered stroke or acquired brain injury; the location of these services; the funding from her Department or from State agencies allocated to these organisations in 2007 and 2008 respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5940/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

104 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to regulate the private hearing aid sector and to establish the minimum qualifications and training required by persons performing the testing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5941/08]

I have no current plans to regulate the provision of hearing aids in the private sector.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

105 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the efforts made to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland in the area of road connectivity, in particular the region west of the Bann, which includes Derry city and Letterkenny; if the North South Ministerial Council deems such connectivity as a matter of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South, under strand two of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5751/08]

The Irish Government has agreed to make available funding of €580 million to provide for a major upgrade of roads within Northern Ireland serving the North West Gateway of Letterkenny/Derry. The project is being taken forward under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

106 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the efforts made to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland in the area of high speed rail connectivity, in particular the region west of the Bann, which includes Derry city and Letterkenny; if the North South Ministerial Council deems such connectivity as a matter of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South, under strand two of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5752/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 1897/08 on 12 February which sets out, inter alia, the position, in relation to responsibility for capital projects and programmes. The North-South Ministerial Council in its transport sectoral format has considered a wide range of cross border transport issues including, in relation to railway services, the Dublin-Belfast Railway link and railway safety. It has not discussed the area of high speed rail connectivity either generally or in relation to the region west of the Bann.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

107 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to strategic transport planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5763/08]

The main forum for such co-operation in strategic transport planning is through the Transport Sector of the North South Ministerial Council. Since taking office I have attended two meetings of that Sector, one on the 14th September 2007 and the other on the 12th December 2007.

Rail Network.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

108 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding Tipperary town station and its train lines; the plans for repair and upkeep of these train lines; the plans for development of the station itself; the breakdown of the stages; the budget for this work; and when he expects the work to start. [5712/08]

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

109 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding Limerick Junction and its train lines; the plans for repair and upkeep of these train lines; the plans for development of the station itself; the breakdown of the stages; the budget for this work; and when he expects the work to start. [5714/08]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.

The maintenance and development of the railway network including railway stations, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I understand from the company that, as part of its ongoing programme of works:

Track renewal and re-signalling works are currently underway at Limerick Junction to improve the efficiency of the Dublin-Cork InterCity mainline operations through the junction;

Tipperary Town station, which is on the Limerick Junction to Waterford regional line, is benefiting from ongoing track renewal works:

All Iarnród Éireann stations, including Limerick Junction and Tipperary Town station, are being upgraded to provide improved accessibility for all customers;

Limerick Junction is served by 10 trains per day to Dublin, 10 to Cork, 8 to Limerick and 4 to Waterford.

Tipperary Town station has 4 services a day each way to Waterford and Limerick Junction

Motor Insurance.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

110 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the less comprehensive legal requirements of mandatory insurance in eastern European countries and the possible ramifications this has for foreign insured drivers here and Irish insured drivers who have accidents in these eastern European regions; if there are plans to tackle same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5715/08]

Under the EU Motor Insurance Directives a single policy covering third party insurance cover is required to operate a mechanically propelled vehicle anywhere within the EU. Under these Directives a non-national driver in Ireland or an Irish driver in another EU State with third party insurance are equally covered. The Gardaí have responsibility for enforcing the law in relation to motor insurance within the State. For countries outside the EU, Irish drivers are advised to consult their motor insurance provider to ensure adequate cover before driving in such countries.

Public Transport.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

111 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the recent presentation to the Joint Committee on Transport relating to quality bus corridor pinchpoints where buses experience the longest delays and the reason for them; if action is being taken to combat these areas, particularly at an area (details supplied); when bus operators can expect to see these pinchpoints improved as per SIPTU report’s recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5716/08]

I understand that the Quality Bus Network Project Office of Dublin City Council has sent to the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport a statement in relation to the actions being taken to deal with the list of Pinch Points which was submitted to the Committee by SIPTU. In relation to the Whitehall Church location, Dublin City Council is currently carrying out a major Quality Bus Network scheme on the Swords Road between Collins Avenue and Iveragh Road which involves road widening to provide a continuous bus lane between Whitehall Church and the existing bus lane south of Iveragh Road. It is a difficult construction scheme due to the need to relocate underground services and maintain traffic flows on the Swords Road. It is expected that the scheme will be completed by the end of August 2008.

Driving Tests.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

112 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will fulfil his commitment to clear the backlog of 122,000 driving test applications by early March 2008; the structures in place to allow for a driving test sitting within ten weeks from June 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5731/08]

Responsibility for driver testing was transferred to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006. The arrangements in relation to driver testing are therefore a matter for the RSA.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

113 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the rules and regulations with regard to first, second and third provisional drivers licence holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5735/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006), driver licensing is a matter for the RSA, and full details of licence requirements are available on their website www.rsa.ie

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

114 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the legal situation for drivers from Northern Ireland holding provisional licences travelling in the Republic of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5738/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

115 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the legal repercussions of driving in Northern Ireland on a provisional licence with reference to annex B of the Belfast Agreement which calls for scope in structural co-operation between the criminal justice agencies on both parts of the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5740/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 115 together.

Arrangements for the mutual recognition of driving licences within the EU are governed by the provisions of EU Directive 91/439 which provides for the mutual recognition of full EU driving licences but not learner permits or provisional licences. The learner permit issued in this State and the provisional licence issued in Northern Ireland only have effect in the jurisdiction in which they are issued.

Airport Development Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

116 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made towards the development of autonomous airports for Shannon and Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4900/08]

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon, Cork and Dublin as independent airports. Under the Act, both the Minister for Finance and I will have to be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the three airports before any vesting of assets can take place. The actual timing of airport restructuring will depend on the creation of the appropriate conditions that will ensure the financial sustainability of each of the three State Airports. The restructuring process will require coordinated strategies for the achievement of operational and financial readiness of each airport. In this regard, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has a key role to play in finalizing the financial framework and coordinating the individual business plans for the three airports that will enable airport separation to take place.

The three Airport Authorities recently submitted their draft business plans to the DAA and I understand that discussions are underway between the parties on the content of the plans. Their plans and the DAA's views on them are currently being considered within my Department and I hope to be in a position to make a decision on the matter in the near future.

Consular Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

117 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made on an investigation (details supplied); the plans his Department has to provide further assistance to the family during the investigation; and the support and assistance that will be given to the family from the Irish consulate. [5868/08]

As the Deputy will be aware from my reply to him of 27 September 2007, my Department has provided extensive consular assistance to the family of the person concerned since his tragic death in Lanzarote on 1 August 2007. Officials from our Consular Section, our Embassy in Madrid and our Honorary Consulate in Lanzarote have maintained direct contact with the family and have assisted in making significant progress on a wide range of practical and sensitive issues.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death is a matter for the Spanish authorities. My Department was informed yesterday that the court judge had decided to request the police to provisionally close the case as there was no evidence that the death was caused as result of a crime. I understand that a term of three days has been given to appeal this Court resolution. This decision has been communicated to the family. The Embassy and Honorary Consulate will remain in contact with the Spanish authorities on the implications of the decision and will communicate any further developments to the family immediately. I can also assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to the family.

Industrial Development.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

118 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason there are no grants available for people to set up small new businesses in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5745/08]

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were set up in 1993 to provide support for micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin this role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter.

The Boards are widely dispersed geographically and provide a single point of contact at local level for new and established small businesses. Rural areas of the country are served by and benefit from, the full range of Enterprise Board grant supports and entrepreneurial development programmes. Subject to certain eligibility criteria urban and rural enterprises may access assistance and support from the CEBs. The forms of financial assistance which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The provision of non-financial assistance can take the form of a wide range of business advice such as Programmes covering Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education, and Women in Business networks.

While the provision of enterprise supports can play an important role in terms of community and rural development, I am anxious to ensure that the provision of such supports is delivered in a manner that complements rather than duplicates the activities taking place within the areas of responsibility of any other Department or enterprise support body or agency. Accordingly, there has been in place for a number of years now a local-level sectoral protocol between CEBs and Local Action Groups implementing LEADER-type actions.

In 2008 the Capital allocation for the 35 CEBs stands at over €20m. This will enable the Boards to continue to be actively involved in the area of economic development and will ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development at both an urban and rural level. This will be done not just by direct grant aid to businesses and project promoters but also through the provision of a range of other important business supports such as mentoring, business training and business advice all of which help to stimulate indigenous enterprise creation.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5777/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a work permit has now issued in this case.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure to regularise the position in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose employment in the EU concluded and who now is a health worker; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5778/08]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that they have no record of a valid application in this case. However, if an application is submitted it will be considered on its own merits.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [5852/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that this application was refused on the grounds that the position on offer is currently one of the occupations ineligible for an employment permit. In addition it appears that the proposed employee has already been in employment without a valid employment permit. An appeal was received in the Employment Permits Section on the 12th February, 2008. A decision will be made on this appeal in the near future.

Job Creation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

122 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the new measures he proposes to introduce to tackle a growing problem (details supplied), particularly in the manufacturing sector; and if he plans to introduce new supports or initiatives to the area. [5866/08]

Over the last number of years there has been churn in employment as is typical of a developed, open, and dynamic economy such as Ireland's. Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and manufacturers in particular are facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. Other sectors, especially the services sector, are providing significant new employment opportunities. Since 1997, over half a million new jobs were created in Ireland and the number in employment now exceeds 2.1 million.

The manufacturing sector in Ireland has evolved noticeably since 2000, in terms of the composition of industry and the nature of activities, and is likely to continue to do so. Manufacturing continues to be a significant employer accounting directly for 11% of total employment and a significant amount of associated services employment. In order to sustain and grow the sector, the Irish based manufacturing enterprises will have to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation. Irish manufacturers who engage in specialised, sophisticated, high technology and value added activities can continue to compete successfully on international markets. These sectors often require specialised skilled staff, specialised technologies and flexible operations, and other factors which are not readily available in many low cost economies, such as modern IP protection laws, a business friendly regulatory environment, etc.

Many companies in Ireland have built world-class high value added manufacturing and services capabilities, particularly in food, information and communications technology, software development, pharmaceuticals and medical technologies. Ireland's existing expertise provides a base for continued wealth creation over the next decade and we envisage that Ireland's manufacturing base will continue to move up the value chain. As part of the commitments included under the partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', I established the High-Level Manufacturing Group, to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and to identify further measures to meet those challenges. This Group is currently in the process of finalising a report outlining their views and recommendations to ensure that manufacturing continues to play a major role in our economy and will report back to Partnership within the next two months.

The new Programme for Government contains a range of commitments focused on maintaining and enhancing our framework competitive conditions, and promoting new areas of competitive advantage, including developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning. Over the period of the new National Development Plan the Government will provide €3.3bn investment specifically to support the development of the indigenous and FDI enterprise base.

Job Losses.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

123 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking to overcome the loss of employment in Athy, County Kildare due to the closure of a company (details supplied); the reason the Industrial Development Authority has only created three visiting itineraries to the area in relation to employment creation in the past five years; the reason he has not invited any of the development officers or council officials of the local authority of the area to accompany him on all of the trade missions that he has undertaken under his brief since he became Minister, to permit such officials the opportunity to seek employment opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5879/08]

The National Training and Employment Authority, FÁS, will be giving immediate attention to the workers at the company in Athy who are losing their jobs and will be making contact with the company to offer its full range of services to all staff who wish to avail of its assistance. It is a matter for companies themselves to decide which sites they wish to visit and where they wish to locate their business. Large multinational Companies attracted to Ireland tend to be concentrated in the Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare and Internationally Traded Services sectors and prefer to locate in high population centres which have full educational and infrastructural requirements.

The National Spatial Strategy aims to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development across the country. The Strategy proposes that areas of sufficient scale and critical mass will be created through a network of gateways and hubs. If Ireland is to continue to be successful in bringing about a large proportion of investments outside of the larger cities and towns, the focus will need to have a regional rather than a local bias. The Industrial Development agencies have been very successful in the past in attracting industry and employment opportunities to Co. Kildare as a whole. I am confident that they will continue to do so in the future and that this approach will benefit the town of Athy.

The Trade Missions that I have led since becoming Minister are undertaken with the assistance of Enterprise Ireland, who invite relevant company clients to participate. The purpose of such missions is to facilitate these companies to develop their exporting potential and to enable them to meet partners and business contacts. There is not, therefore, any scope for the participation of Development Officers or other County Council officials on such missions, as the development of exports is undertaken by reference to individual exporting companies, not geographic areas. Likewise, such missions would not be an appropriate mechanism to seek employment opportunities for specific regional areas.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

124 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5758/08]

North South cooperation on tourism has been ongoing for a number of years and continues on a regular basis between the relevant Departments north and south and the respective tourism agencies. As the Deputy will be aware, tourism was specifically identified in the Good Friday Agreement as an area of cooperation. Even before the Agreement however, there was significant co-operation in tourism and joint marketing started in the mid 1990s through the Overseas Tourism Marketing Initiative (OTMI). The establishment of Tourism Ireland however, as a North South Body responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas has, in my opinion, been an impressive example of the tangible benefits to be achieved from closer more structured economic collaboration on this island.

Since assuming full responsibility for marketing the island overseas in the 2001/2002 period, the company has grown to become a professional, sophisticated international marketing organisation which is widely respected by its peers and the international tourism and travel trade in its main markets. The company has been highly successful in terms of attracting overseas visitors. It is estimated that the tourism industry on the island is now worth in excess of €6.5 billion per annum and well over 9 million overseas visitors came to the island last year alone. In terms of recent developments, on the 8th November last I met with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Nigel Dodds MP, at the first North South Ministerial Council meeting in Tourism Sectoral format since the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly. At this meeting, we approved Tourism Ireland's Business Plan for 2008 and its Corporate Plan for the period 2008 — 2010. These plans set ambitious targets for the continued growth of tourism to the island of Ireland which, if achieved, will result in up to 10.6 million visitors to the island by 2010 with an associated €16 billion in tourism revenues over that 3 year period.

On the development side, my Department has been working with the tourism agencies, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and the Special EU Programmes Body to advance the selection of tourism projects which may benefit from funding under the next round of the EU Interreg Programme. This work has generated a number of agreed themes for tourism cooperation such as:

Access, accessibility and dispersal

Transnational & UK Links

Tourism product development, major projects and attractions

International Competitiveness (businesses, skills and capacity)

Marketing & E Commerce

Green Tourism Standard.

Another recent example of north/south cooperation on tourism was the hosting of Rally Ireland last November which was supported by both the Irish (through Fáilte Ireland's International Sports Tourism Initiative) and Northern Ireland authorities. The rally route took in eight counties on both sides of the Border and it is estimated that the event was seen by 800 million television viewers in 180 countries. These viewers got to see some of the most scenic landscapes on the island including the lake lands of Sligo, Leitrim, Tyrone and Fermanagh and the Atlantic coast roads of Donegal. The decision to award a further round of the Rally in 2009 to the island of Ireland was a strong endorsement of the success of last year's event.

North/South cooperation on tourism exists on a less formal basis in areas such as education and training; product marketing and publicity; tourism statistics and research; E-business and e-marketing; and accommodation standards. A variety of initiatives are being developed and pursued by the tourism agencies across these areas to enhance the level of cooperation that already exists. These are just some examples of the variety of North-South initiatives underway to develop tourism on this island. For my part, I am fully committed to the development of North-South cooperation at all levels and I am ready to support any new opportunities that may emerge in this regard in the future.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

125 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to developments on Ballaghaderreen swimming pool, County Roscommon; when the project is expected to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5822/08]

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department, provides grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of an existing pool. There are four principal stages in developing a swimming pool project following the submission of a feasibility study. These, in order of progress, are: Preliminary Report; Contract Documents; Tender and Construction. Grant-aid is allocated only when tenders have been approved for the project. The Department and its technical advisors, the Office of Public Works, evaluate each stage and local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project without my prior approval.

Following the submission of a Feasibility Study by Roscommon County Council in relation to a proposal for a swimming pool in Ballaghaderreen, I agreed last October that the Council may now proceed to the preparation of a detailed Preliminary Report and Design Brief in relation to the project. This is now awaited in my Department.

Employment Statistics.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

126 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of people directly and indirectly employed in the sporting sector of the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5872/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

128 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the value of the sporting sector to the economy annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5875/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

131 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of voluntary staff who work in sporting organisations here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5878/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 128 and 131 together.

The Deputy will be aware that I have no direct responsibility regarding the compilation of employment statistics. I am, however, informed by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) that the information requested by the Deputy is not available. The CSO has informed me that, while it compiles extensive statistics on employment, sectoral data are compiled using the NACE classification, which is the standard EU classification for economic activity and, that due to the fragmented and diverse nature of Sports, it is not identified as a sector within the classification. The Deputy will also be aware that the Irish Sports Council (ISC) was established on a statutory basis on 1 July 1999 with responsibility for the promotion and development of sport.

Under Section 6 of the Irish Sports Council Act 1999, the functions of the Council include (i) Section 6(1)(e) "where the Council considers it appropriate to do so, to initiate and encourage research concerning either or both competitive sport and recreational sport" and (ii) Section 6(1)(f) "where the Council considers it appropriate to do so, to facilitate research and disseminate information concerning either or both competitive sport and recreational sport". In that regard, in 2003 the ISC commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) to undertake studies on its behalf. The second report in the series entitled "Social and Economic Value of Sport in Ireland" was published in 2005. In this report, it was estimated that the number of volunteers involved in sport in 2003 was in the region of 400,000 persons.

Also in that report it was estimated that the following four areas of activity (i) volunteers, (ii) membership subscriptions to sports clubs, (iii) attendance at sports events and (iv) spending on sports equipment, sports clothing and related costs of playing sport, generated approximately €1.4 billion per annum. The report also suggested that further additions, such as tourism, government spending and horse and greyhound racing, increased that estimate to €1.86 billion per annum.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

127 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of people directly and indirectly employed in the arts and cultural sector of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5874/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

130 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the value of the arts and cultural sector to the economy annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5877/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 130 together.

At present there is no definitive measure of the number of people directly and indirectly employed in the arts and cultural sector of the economy. The Central Statistics Office does not currently publish figures specifically for the arts and cultural sector and I intend to pursue this issue with the CSO. In the meantime, I am considering conducting a research exercise to establish the number of people employed in the sectors and the economic impact of the arts and culture sector.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 126.

Tourism Industry.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

129 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the value of the tourism sector to the economy annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5876/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the compilation of statistical data relating to economic activities in the State is primarily a matter for the Central Statistics Office. Fáilte Ireland produces an annual summary of Tourism Facts. The most recent year for which full data is available is 2006. According to Fáilte Ireland, in 2006 out-of-state tourist expenditure, including spending by visitors from Northern Ireland, amounted to €4 billion. With a further €0.66 billion spent by overseas visitors on fares to Irish carriers, total foreign exchange earnings were €4.66 billion. Domestic tourism expenditure amounted to €1.4 billion making tourism in total a €6 billion industry in 2006. The comparative figures for 2007 will be available later this year.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 127.
Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 126.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

132 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to social security and social welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5757/08]

The main areas of North-South co-operation undertaken by my Department are as follows. In June 2002 the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Plenary agreed that a dedicated cross-border website be established to counteract the complexity and difficulty people found in accessing relevant information on a range of issues from social security and taxation rights to housing and education. This work is being taken forward by the Cross Border Mobility Information Group, made up of officials from the two Administrations and the Joint Secretariat in Armagh. My Department is represented on the Group. Funding of €173,000 for the project was approved in July 2006 under the Peace II programme, and the contract to develop this website awarded to the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS).

The website, www.crossbordermobility.info, is structured around the four concepts of "Commute", "Work", "Live", and "Study" and includes information on public sector issues such as taxation, social security and job seeking, health and education as well as private sector issues such as banking, housing and telecommunications. The site, which is a tangible and practical example of the two Governments working together for the benefit of citizens, North and South, has been available to citizens since 2007. The strengthening links with Northern Ireland and direct contact between the respective social welfare organisations are very important. For the past number of years my Department has hosted a number of Information Seminars in partnership with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Social Security Agency (SSA) in Northern Ireland. The objective of the Seminars is to provide frontline staff with the level of information needed to promote and increase benefit uptake within both jurisdictions by sharing information and good practice, and developing links between the two organisations and the voluntary sectors.

Themes covered in past Seminars include Pensions and Disabilities (2003), Families with particular emphasis on Carers and Lone parents (2004), "Best Practice" within both Departments, and issues relating to posted workers (2005), and the challenge of providing social services in multi-ethnic society, with a particular focus on the migrant worker mobility in 2006. The theme for the 2007 Seminar was "Supporting people in older life". In addition, the ninth annual Social Welfare Summer School was held in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth College, between 12th-18th August 2007. This joint venture between my Department and DSD, which is hosted alternately by each jurisdiction, aims to provide staff in both Departments with the opportunity to study a specific policy theme in an academic setting.

The all-Ireland Free Travel Scheme for senior residents in all parts of the island was introduced on foot of a commitment in the previous programme for Government (2002-2007). It enables certain people in each jurisdiction to travel free of charge within the other jurisdiction. Seniors (over 66) resident in the Republic can travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in Northern Ireland and this travel is funded by the Northern authorities. Likewise, seniors (over 65) in Northern Ireland can participate free of charge in the Free Travel scheme here in this State.

The scheme was launched on 2 April 2007. Funding by this Department is expected to rise to €1.9 million this year. While it is not possible to predict precisely the number of customers likely to participate in the scheme, approximately 220,000 cross-border journeys are undertaken each year by an estimated 40,000 passengers, and it is hoped that take up of the scheme will be high. Common text, which appears in Ireland's National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 and in Northern Ireland's Lifetime Opportunities: Government's Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Strategy for Northern Ireland, outlines how the UK and Irish Governments are committed to developing and promoting co-operation in relation to combating poverty and social exclusion. It commits Ireland and Northern Ireland to preparing a Joint Report to include: an overview of areas of existing North/South co-operation; areas potentially suitable for further cooperation; and advice on the mechanisms by which this work might be undertaken and delivered.

The common text also appeared in the Irish and UK's National Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NSSPI), covering the period 2006 to 2008, which were submitted to the EU by each Member State in September 2006. In February 2007, approval was given by the British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (BIIGC) to continuing North/South joint work to alleviate ‘social exclusion, poverty and deprivation to help create a more inclusive society on the island of Ireland'. Finally, Officials of my Department continue their long-standing practice of liaising with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and other jurisdictions on matters relating to controlling abuses of social welfare schemes.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when arrears of basic payment will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5781/08]

The Health Service Executive has stated that the matter is currently under review with the Executive's Appeals Office and has advised that the person concerned will be informed of the outcome of its decision in due course.

Social Welfare Payment System.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

134 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he proposes to proceed with the switching from book to swipe card payment for a number of social welfare payments; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that these proposed changes will result in further marginalisation of social welfare recipients who chose to collect their payments at the post office in cash and that all recipients will have to attend in person to sign for their payments as their payment dockets will not be transferred to their agent to collect on their behalf; his views on whether it will cause hardship to some people that the proposed changes will only mean that the dockets are valid for 20 days while under the old system they were valid for three months and sometimes at Christmas and back to school times where some social welfare recipients used this as a type of saving method, for example, children’s allowance dockets are valid for six months and this is also proposed to be reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5697/08]

It is government policy to facilitate the greater use of electronic payment systems in the economy in the interests of developing a world-class payments environment in Ireland. In this context, the National Payments Implementation Program Advisory Group, under the aegis of the Department of An Taoiseach, monitors the growth in electronic payments, the reduction in cash transactions and any new payment mechanisms which come on the market. My Department is represented on this Group. The current range of payment options offered by my Department to customers includes payment at a local post office or to a bank or building society account; or certain credit unions that have been authorised by the banking and credit union regulators. Customers opt for a particular payment method having regard to their own personal circumstances.

Currently some 50% of customers receive their payment electronically direct to their Post Office, bank or financial institution. The remaining customers are paid by paper based payment instruments — cheques, post drafts or personal payment order books. The Department is implementing a three-year strategy to change paper based payment instruments to electronic payments at post offices and financial institutions. The programme is being implemented on a phased basis to coincide with book renewal production schedules and as personalised payable order books expire.

Concerns have been raised about the position of customers who use "agents" to collect their payments. The Department is aware of these concerns and have put in place arrangements to continue using book payments in these cases. The objective of my Department's payment strategy is to ensure that cost effective arrangements are in place for making payments to social welfare customers using a range of payment options and that new payment facilities are made available to customers as they become available. A range of measures are underway to inform customers of the change in payment methods and to allay fears and concerns which they may have regarding the use of Social Services Cards to collect their payment at post offices. It should be noted that the use of the Social Services Card will be possible at all post offices.

Excluding agent related customers, all other customers are being informed by letter of the change in their payment arrangement. A Social Services Card, along with a covering letter explaining how to use the card, is being issued to them. An Post and the Irish Postmaster's Union (IPU) are committed to assisting customers in the use of cards for collecting their payment. Groups representing the elderly and disabled have already been consulted and have indicated that they will support the move to electronic payments at post offices. Posters will be displayed in all post offices, Citizens Information Centres and throughout the Department's local office network. In addition, the change from paper to electronic payment will be a key element of all public information events, seminars and information briefings being carried by my Department in the coming year.

Customers, who collect their payment at a post office, will present their Social Services Card and sign for their payment in the normal way. Payments can be collected up to 60 days after the due date in the case of pensioners and up to 100 days for child benefit recipients. Certain other customers have 20 days to collect their payment which is considered to be the optimum time for collection of a weekly means based payment. After these times the payments go out of date and are returned to the Department. Where a payment is not collected in time the Department can be contacted and a replacement payment made as appropriate. An Post has a number of savings products available at post offices which offer customers additional benefits and security.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

135 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the options open to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin whose rent has been recently increased by their landlord and now surpasses the rental cap who cannot find alternative accommodation in the locality and who may be forced to declare themselves homeless. [5701/08]

Rent supplement is administered on my behalf by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable the different eligible household types to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to the different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the State. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation having regard to the size of the household.

Notwithstanding existing rent limits, the Health Service Executive may exceed these limits in certain circumstances e.g. where there is special housing need related to exceptional circumstances. The discretionary power ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme and specifically protects against homelessness. The Health Service Executive has advised that it has awarded a rent supplement to the person concerned. The Executive has also advised that it has exercised its discretionary power to pay a rent supplement in excess of the specified rent limits, due to the exceptional circumstances of this case.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

136 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to provide a pension for women who were debarred from continuing work in the Civil Service from the 1960s to the 1980s on marrying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5775/08]

The Government is anxious to ensure that as many people as possible can be accommodated within the social welfare pensions system, with due regard being paid to the contributory principle underlying entitlement to contributory payments and, in the case of non-contributory payments, the need to ensure that resources are directed to those who are most in need. Over the last 10 years, means tests have been improved and qualifying conditions for contributory payments made easier. Many women in both the private and the public sector left employment on marriage because they were required to, or because that was the societal norm at the time. Civil servants who left the workforce through the operation of the marriage bar were not insured for social welfare pension purposes. Accordingly, the loss of pension rights in their case relates more to their occupational position rather than social welfare pension entitlements.

That said, the Green Paper on Pensions which I published on 17th October includes a full discussion on the social welfare pension position of women who had to resign due to the marriage bar. In this context, the Green Paper sets out a range of reforms including the use of universal entitlements and back-dating the homemakers scheme. A consultation process on the Green Paper is now underway and will remain open until mid 2008. The Government will respond to the process by publishing a framework for future pensions policy and I expect that this will happen towards the end of the year. Decisions in relation to those who are not at present receiving support through the social welfare system, including those who had to leave employment on marriage, will be considered in that context.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 116 of 22 November 2007, the reason his Department has failed to address the issue of arrears of €2,000 in respect of rent which can only be resolved by means of a once off payment to meet their exceptional needs; if he will address this aspect of the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5799/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of a rent supplement (in addition to a one parent family payment) at the maximum rate payable appropriate to her circumstances. The Executive have further stated that the person concerned was advised by the Community Welfare Officer (CWO), to contact the local Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). The person concerned met the MABS representative in January 2008 in order to discuss her situation. A number of options relating to the repayment of the rent arrears were discussed and the person concerned was asked to contact the MABS office again to discuss these options further. The MABS office in Kildare has informed my Department that the person concerned contacted the MABS office last week with a view to arranging a resolution to the issue.

Additionally my Department has asked the CWO to contact the person concerned again to arrange a meeting to see if her circumstances have changed since their last meeting. The CWO has already advised the person concerned that she should proceed with an agreed course of action, in consultation with the MABS.

Social Welfare Code.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

138 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the protection his Department has under social welfare regulations, legislation or guidelines to ensure that social welfare recipients in receipt of recent family increases in Budget 2008 do not have the percentage rise clawed back by a local authority increasing its rent by a similar amount as to the budget rise; if, in determining social welfare payments in general the percentage of social welfare payments is determined by him as possible rent or accommodation payments; and if fuel or living alone allowances are included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5919/08]

The determination of rents payable under the terms of the differential rent scheme and the income to be assessed for this purpose is the responsibility of the relevant local authority and is subject to broad principles, as laid down by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I understand that guidelines issued by that department to local authorities indicate that no more than 15% of any increase in social welfare payments should be absorbed by an increase in rent.

Entitlement to rent supplement, administered by the Health Service Executive on my behalf, is determined on the basis of the circumstances of each individual case, including accommodation costs and the income of the applicant. Income from social welfare payments in excess of the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to family size is generally assessed as means for the purposes of the rent supplement scheme. Income from allowances such as fuel and living alone is not assessable as means. Special arrangements are applied to income from pensions and carers allowance, enabling people in receipt of those payments to receive a higher amount of Rent Supplement than would otherwise be the case.

Payment is normally calculated to ensure that the person, after payment of the rent has a weekly income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her circumstances, less €13. This €13 represents the minimum contribution which all applicants are required to pay towards accommodation costs from their own resources. Because the calculation is based on the current rate of Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Budgetary increases in that rate do not lead to a reduction in rent supplement payment rates.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

139 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council has taken for North-South co-operation in relation to inland waterways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5756/08]

Waterways Ireland was set up in December 1999 under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 to manage the inland navigable waterways, primarily for recreational purposes. Waterways Ireland has responsibility for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of the following navigable waterways: the Barrow Navigation; the Erne System; the Grand Canal; the Lower Bann Navigation; the Royal Canal; the Shannon-Erne Waterway; and the Shannon Navigation.

Since its establishment, the body has been carrying out these functions, in line with business and corporate plans approved periodically by the North/South Ministerial Council. Most recently, at a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council on 17 October last, approval was granted to Waterways Ireland to proceed with the restoration of the stretch of Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones. If the Deputy requires further information in respect of any particular aspect of the body's operations, I will be happy to request the CEO to provide this to him directly. I should add that the annual report and accounts of Waterways Ireland are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

140 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council has taken for North-South co-operation in relation to urban and rural development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5761/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that a group consisting of representatives of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland and the Special E.U. Programmes Body meets on a regular basis to review progress on projects under the LEADER Programmes. A total of 9 cross-border co-operation projects were approved in the 2000-06 round of funding. It is anticipated that there will be continued good progress under the Co-operation measure in the Rural Development Programme for Ireland 2007-2013.

Furthermore a Steering Committee on Cross Border Rural Development (SCCBRD) was established to promote the maximum co-operation in the implementation of rural development programmes and on EU programmes, to exchange information on experience and best practice in both jurisdictions in relation to rural development, and to examine the scope for a common approach to the feasibility of developing cross-border area based strategies and rural development research. SCCBRD continues to focus on the maximum co-operation in the implementation of rural development and EU programmes, including PEACE and INTERREG, and on rural policy issues. A meeting of this Committee is scheduled for Monday, 18 February 2008.

Officials from my Department also attend the NSMC Agriculture Sector Working Group meetings. My officials are attending the next working group meeting scheduled for today, 14 February 2008. I attended the NSMC Agriculture Sectoral meeting on the 9 November 2007, and will be attending the forthcoming meeting on 30 April 2008. My Department has also funded the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace 2 and Interreg 3A) since 2002. The Peace 2 Programme seeks to address the legacy of the conflict and to help promote a stable and normal society where opportunities arise. The Interreg 3A Programme aims to develop cross border co-operation. Six cross border Measures under these programmes have been implemented by Border Action on behalf of the Department in co-operation with partners in Northern Ireland.

Two of the cross border Peace measures support projects which focus on the development of cross border reconciliation and understanding, and projects which promote joint approaches to social, education, training and human resource development. While two rural Peace measures have sought to address cross border agriculture and rural development co-operation including cross border community development, and cross border farm diversification. The rural Peace measures closed in March 2007. My Department also fund two Interreg 3A measures which provide support for projects under a rural development initiative and social community infrastructure. All projects under the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation are due to be completed this year.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 15.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

143 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when a decision will be made by Pobal on an application made on 14 November 2007 by a committee (details supplied). [5695/08]

Among the priority measures approved by Government for assistance under the 2007 Dormant Accounts Programme is one providing funding for community based supports for older people. The closing date for receipt of applications was late November 2007 and over 360 applications were received, including one from the organisation in question. The applications are currently being assessed and as soon as this process is completed, I will bring recommendations to Government for approval in accordance with the legislative provisions.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he proposes to increase expenditure and funding to the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5809/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Oral Questions Nos. 17 & 54 which I answered earlier today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he proposes to increase funding or extend the scope of the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5810/08]

As the Deputy is aware, the CLÁR Programme is a targeted investment programme for rural areas, which was launched in October 2001. The areas covered by the Programme were reviewed in 2002 and, more recently, in 2006 and as a result, CLÁR now covers parts of 23 counties with Kildare, Wexford and Dublin now being the only counties not included in the programme. CLÁR benefits a population of nearly 727,000. I have no plans at present for a further extension of the Programme. A number of new measures are under consideration by my officials at present.

With regard to expenditure, a budget of €21 million has been allocated to the programme for 2008. Under the NDP, the CLÁR sub-programme is to be allocated in the region of €141 million in the period 2007-2013 for the on-going regeneration of rural areas suffering from population decline.

Questions Nos. 146 to 148, inclusive, answered with Question No. 39.

Youth Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he proposes to increase expenditure under the various programmes operated by his Department in County Kildare with particular reference to youth services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5815/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department provides funding for a wide range of projects and services, through a number of programmes and schemes in Co. Kildare, including projects with a particular reference to "youth services". Funding is available for "youth services" projects under the Programme of Grants for Community and Voluntary Organisations, the LEADER programme, RAPID programme, the Local Development and Social Inclusion Programme and from the Regional Drugs Task force in Co Kildare. Each of these schemes and grant programmes are governed by rules and eligibility criteria, which projects have to meet in order to qualify for funding. Details of the schemes and programmes, along with the rules and eligibility criteria are available on the Department's website www.pobail.ie

Details of funding available can also be accessed on the website. I am satisfied that the allocations are sufficient to meet the funding commitments approved for these schemes.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 39.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of applications for funding received by his Department for County Kildare in 2008; his proposals to respond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5817/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department operates a wide range of programmes and schemes, details of which are available on the Department's website at www.pobail.ie. A number of these schemes and programmes are administered, on behalf of the Department by various groups and bodies, and accordingly applications for funding are made directly to these groups and bodies. In relation to the Deputies request for the number of applications for funding received by my Department in 2008 from Co. Kildare, I can confirm that two applications for funding from Co. Kildare were received directly by the Department under the Scheme of Community Support for Older People.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to address urban or rural social or economic deprivation throughout County Kildare in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5818/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department operates a wide range of programmes and schemes, across the state, including in Co. Kildare. Details in relation to these programmes and schemes, including measures delivered by my Department to address urban or social or economic deprivation across the state, including Co. Kildare are available on the Department's website, www.pobail.ie.

Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 53.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

154 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action, in chronological order, she, her Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to agriculture, animal and plant health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5753/08]

There has been one North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Agriculture Sectoral meeting since the NSMC Plenary meeting in July last year. This sectoral meeting was held in Donegal on 9th November 2007. In relation to animal health and welfare, the Council

recognised the important work that has been undertaken to develop an all-island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy;

noted the all-island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy paper developed by the North/South Animal Health and Welfare Steering Group and which includes a list of initial activities for delivery of key elements of the strategy with various milestones and deadlines for the immediate period ahead;

agreed that the way forward is through co-operation and the development of complementary policies;

agreed that the free movement of animals on the island continues to be the ultimate aim of an animal health and welfare strategy; and

requested officials to continue to oversee progress on delivery of the initial activities of the Strategy and to identify further issues to progress the Strategy for approval at the next NSMC sectoral meeting.

In relation to co-operation on plant health, the Council

welcomed the close North/South co-operation on plant health;

agreed that the focus of this co-operation should continue to be the status of pests and diseases threatening the island's plant health; research developments on diagnostic tools and eradication measures; new items of EU or national legislation; and co-operation on EU matters;

noted that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is developing a plant health strategy for Northern Ireland which will include a section on North/South co-operation consistent with DAFF plant health strategies; and

agreed that the work of the North/South Pesticide Steering Group should focus on the production of co-ordinated pesticide usage surveys for grassland and fodder crops and for arable crops.

On Common Agriculture Policy issues, the Council:

agreed that officials should remain in close contact on a range of key CAP issues including the EU Commission's recent adoption of a single Common Market Organisation, the reform of the Fruit and Vegetable sector and the forthcoming CAP "Health Check" to examine how the CAP reforms of 2003 have worked as a result of EU enlargement and other changes; and

noted that future NSMC meetings will consider and review common challenges and opportunities arising from the EU dimension of agriculture.

The next NSMC Agriculture Sectoral meeting is scheduled to take place in 30th April in Enniskillen.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

155 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will look favourably on an application for a single farm payment for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [5700/08]

The person named applied for the 2007 Single Payment Scheme on 25 April 2007. He also submitted an application to consolidate his entitlements on 26 April 2007. On 10 December 2007, the applicant was notified that his application to consolidate his entitlements was rejected as he had previously consolidated his entitlements and he did not declare sufficient eligible hectares in 2007 to meet the requirements of Article 7 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 7956/2004. In accordance with the provisions of Article 7, an applicant must declare at least 50% of the average number of hectares farmed during the 2000 to 2002 reference period in order to be eligible to consolidate his or her entitlements.

The person named lodged an application to add additional land to his application on 21 January 2008. He was informed that under the EU Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme, the land could not be added to his application after 9 June 2007. Under the Regulations, it was possible to accept amendments, received on or before 31 May 2007, adding eligible land to the 2007 Single Payment application. It was also possible to accept amendments from that date until 9 June 2007 subject to the penalty provided for in the Regulations.

The legal requirements of the Single Payment Scheme in so far as the submission of late amendments to an application are concerned have been fully explained to the person named and his agent. He has been advised of his rights of appeal and the procedures to follow in submitting an appeal.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

156 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) who is waiting to be awarded their REP scheme payment; if this will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5723/08]

The person named is a participant in REPS 3. In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. At that stage, some €6 million had already been paid to REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers since 1 January 2008.

My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. My Department's position was outlined in considerable detail at a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January. When Commissioner Fischer Boel was in Dublin two weeks ago to attend the Annual General Meeting of the IFA, I took the opportunity to make the same points directly to her and I emphasised the seriousness with which I regarded the situation. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission. However, until the matter is clarified, my Department is not in a position to release any further payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3. Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

157 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in payment of the early payment in relation to REP scheme two, three and four which affects up to 40,000 posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5736/08]

In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. At that stage, some €6 million had already been paid to REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers since 1 January 2008.

My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. My Department's position was outlined in considerable detail at a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January. When Commissioner Fischer Boel was in Dublin two weeks ago to attend the Annual General Meeting of the IFA, I took the opportunity to make the same points directly to her and I emphasised the seriousness with which I regarded the situation. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission. However, until the matter is clarified, my Department is not in a position to release any further payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3. Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

158 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when her attention will be brought to the proposed changes in payment arrangements for the REP scheme; if she informed the relevant farming bodies of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5827/08]

The farming organisations were made aware in December 2007 of the fact that the EU Regulations governing REPS 4 might, if applied strictly, require a departure from the existing practice of paying REPS participants in full at the beginning of each contract year. My officials informed them that they were making every effort to persuade the Commission that the existing practice should continue for REPS 4.

In the course of discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. I was informed of this and my officials immediately began to engage with the Commission seeking to resolve the problem. At a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January, my Department's position was set out in considerable detail. I met with Commissioner Fischer Boel on 29 January when she was in Dublin for the Annual General Meeting of the IFA and made clear my concerns about the seriousness of the situation and the need for an early solution. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

159 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme payment. [5829/08]

The person named is a participant in REPS 3. In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. At that stage, some €6 million had already been paid to REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers since 1 January 2008.

My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. My Department's position was outlined in considerable detail at a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January. When Commissioner Fischer Boel was in Dublin two weeks ago to attend the Annual General Meeting of the IFA, I took the opportunity to make the same points directly to her and I emphasised the seriousness with which I regarded the situation. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission. However, until the matter is clarified, my Department is not in a position to release any further payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3. Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

160 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way the proposed rearrangements under the REP scheme and in particular in relation to the existing participants in REP scheme two and three accords with her Department’s contractual obligations under the scheme with these participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5830/08]

In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. At that stage, some €6 million had already been paid to REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers since 1 January 2008.

My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. My Department's position was outlined in considerable detail at a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January. When Commissioner Fischer Boel was in Dublin two weeks ago to attend the Annual General Meeting of the IFA, I took the opportunity to make the same points directly to her and I emphasised the seriousness with which I regarded the situation. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission. However, until the matter is clarified, my Department is not in a position to release any further payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3. Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

161 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers in REP scheme two and three affected by the proposal to change the payment arrangements in each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5831/08]

Up to 10 February 2008, 4,895 payments to farmers in REPS 2 and REPS 3 were approved and awaiting release. The information requested is set out in tabular form below.

County

Payments approved for REPS 2 participants

Payments approved for REPS 3 participants

Carlow

0

68

Cavan

16

189

Clare

10

189

Cork

8

277

Donegal

36

321

Dublin

2

13

Galway

45

577

Kerry

32

305

Kildare

1

58

Kilkenny

4

130

Laois

1

66

Leitrim

8

191

Limerick

9

181

Longford

13

110

Louth

3

20

Mayo

50

354

Meath

2

63

Monaghan

8

145

Offaly

10

117

Roscommon

3

185

Sligo

10

172

Tipperary NR

3

173

Tipperary SR

1

94

Waterford

10

153

Westmeath

5

199

Wexford

4

196

Wicklow

2

53

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REP scheme payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5849/08]

An application for REPS 4 from the person named was received in my Department on 19 December 2007. His contract cannot therefore commence before 1 January 2008. As regards REPS 4 contracts commencing on or after 1 January 2008, my Department is in discussions with the European Commission as to whether the previous practice of paying farmers at the start of each contract year in REPS can continue. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission.

Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Crop Losses.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

163 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the contingency plans that have been and are in place for the outbreak of brown rot in potatoes here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5896/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

164 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the three potato growers in County Wexford whose crop has been locked up because of being contaminated with brown rot. [5897/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

165 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the financial aid package in place for three potato growers in County Wexford whose crop has been contaminated with brown rot in potatoes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5898/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

166 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when potato growers whose crop has been contaminated with brown rot in potatoes will receive financial aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5899/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

167 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she and her officials will meet the potato farmers and grocers whose crop has been locked up with brown rot in potatoes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5900/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

168 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the restrictions that have been placed on potato growers and farmers whose crop has been contaminated with brown rot in potatoes; the aid her Department has provided to these farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5901/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 to 168, inclusive, together.

Brown rot is caused by the bacterium Ralstonia Solanacearum and results in yield losses in host plants and the rotting of tubers. The disease poses no risk to human or animal health. The handling of this disease is governed by EU legislation, which is being followed by my Department in this case. My Department has also had a contingency plan in place for some time prior to this outbreak.

Brown rot was for the first time found on Irish produced potatoes in September 2007. Since then the Department has implemented its contingency plan for a brown rot outbreak and has worked tirelessly to control and eradicate this dangerous bacterial disease. Disease prevention notices have been served on growers where the disease has been confirmed. Potatoes may only be moved off the farms involved under permit and under the control of officials from my Department.

My Ministers of State and I have met these farmers on a number of occasions and officials from my Department are in constant contact with the individual potato growers involved, the farming organizations and the potato trade in an effort to control the spread of this disease and to try to address issues faced by the individual farmers concerned. The latest such meeting took place last evening in my Department and the issues raised are being currently examined.

Farm Waste Management.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

169 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason her Department’s staff mileage expenses are being curtailed when there are a huge number of farm waste management applications awaiting inspection for payment particularly in the west and north west which will lead only to a hold up in farm grants being paid; if there will be sufficient funds available to pay all the farm grants by the end of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5903/08]

I am satisfied that sufficient resources are available in my Department's estimates for 2008 to ensure that the necessary inspections can continue to take place under the Farm Waste Management Scheme and that all financial commitments under the Scheme will be met.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

170 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be granted their REP scheme payment. [5909/08]

The person named is a participant in REPS 3. In the course of the ongoing discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. At that stage, some €6 million had already been paid to REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers since 1 January 2008.

My officials have argued strongly with the Commission that the practice of paying at the start of the contract year is well established and one of which the Commission is well aware. My Department's position was outlined in considerable detail at a meeting with the Commission in Brussels on 25 January. When Commissioner Fischer Boel was in Dublin two weeks ago to attend the Annual General Meeting of the IFA, I took the opportunity to make the same points directly to her and I emphasised the seriousness with which I regarded the situation. I am continuing, along with my officials, to press for a quick resolution to the issue and high-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission. However, until the matter is clarified, my Department is not in a position to release any further payments under REPS 2 and REPS 3. Payments to REPS 4 farmers under contracts which commenced in 2007 are beginning to issue this week.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

171 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will receive their REP scheme payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5936/08]

The person named applied for his REPS payment on 30 November 2007. Further information was requested and was received in my Department on 30 January 2008. However, I understand that additional information, related to the compulsory purchase of some of his land, is still required by my officials before processing of the application can be completed. If the application is found to be correct, the timing of the release of payment will depend on the current discussions with the European Commission about REPS payment arrangements.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

172 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the action, in chronological order, she, her Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to teacher qualifications and exchanges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5754/08]

This is an important area for North South co-operation in my Department and I look forward to continuing to work closely with my counterparts in Northern Ireland to ensure that the maximum benefit is gained by teachers in Ireland and Northern Ireland through close cooperation and exchange of best practice in the continuing professional development of teachers. In 2000 a Joint Teacher Qualifications Working Group was established under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council to examine a range of issues related to teacher mobility.

A key area considered as an obstacle to cross border teacher mobility from North to South was the issue of the Irish language requirement for recognition as a primary teacher. Since 2000, significant changes have been made to the requirements for proficiency in the Irish language in respect of teaching posts. Since 2003 the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) has been funded by the two Education Departments, North and South, and the Department of Employment and Learning. SCoTENS provides support for all-island conferences on social, scientific and environmental education, initial teacher education, citizenship education and special educational needs and for North/South research projects on continuing professional development and on profound and multiple learning difficulties.

The Special Educational Needs Cross Border Professional Exchange Programme, supported by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (Peace II) enabled teachers, principals and educational psychologists, from Northern Ireland and the border counties, to participate in professional exchanges. The project, which resulted in the production of resources being distributed to schools — North and South, ended in 2006. My Department and the Regional Training Unit in the North collaborated on North/South leadership conferences over a three year period. Most recently in 2007 a two day conference was held in Cavan. Under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the two Education Departments North and South jointly hosted a conference on School Leadership Development Strategies in November 2007.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15, an applicant for naturalisation has sufficient research qualifications to obtain a higher education grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5784/08]

My Department funds three maintenance grant schemes for third level students which are administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees. These are the Higher Education Grants Scheme, the Vocational Education committees' Scholarship Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses. The Higher Education Grants Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees.

Under the terms of the maintenance grants schemes grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. As the decision on eligibility for a higher education grant is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC to determine it will be necessary for the candidate referred to by the Deputy to contact their local authority/VEC directly to have their eligibility assessed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin will enable their son to qualify for an education grant when he has his leaving certificate in June 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5793/08]

My Department funds three maintenance grant schemes for third level students which are administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees. These are the Higher Education Grants Scheme, the Vocational Education committees' Scholarship Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses.

The Higher Education Grants Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees. Under the terms of the maintenance grants schemes grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. As the decision on eligibility for a maintenance grant is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC to determine it will be necessary for the candidate referred to by the Deputy to contact their local authority/VEC directly to have their eligibility assessed.

Youth Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to increase funding to the Kildare Youth Services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5814/08]

Six (6) special projects for youth in Co. Kildare that operate under the aegis of Kildare Youth Service are currently in receipt of annual grant-in-aid funding under my Department's Special Projects for Youth Scheme.

Details of these projects are outlined hereunder in tabular form:

Project

2007 Grant

Athy Youth Project

89,494

Ballycane-Sarto (Naas)

105,000

Leixlip Youth Project

105,000

Newbridge Youth Project

120,178

Kildare Town Youth Project

103,845

Curragh Youth Project

60,000

Total

583,517

The focus of financial allocations by my Department in 2007 was on the consolidation of current provision, with particular emphasis on the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, a priority identified by the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA).

In that regard, the baseline for the Ballycane-sarto and Leixlip youth projects was increased to €60,000 and in addition, these two (2) projects were up-graded to two worker status. (The up-grade of projects to two-worker status is one of the recommendations in the National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007.) Funding amounting to €45,000 (per project) was made available in 2007 for this purpose with full years costs in 2008 amounting to €60,000. In 2007, a funding increase of 7.5% was sanctioned by my Department for the Athy, Newbridge and Kildare Town Youth Projects. As well as that, the Curragh Youth Project was mainstreamed for funding for the first time in 2007. Funding is also provided by my Department to Kildare Youth Service in respect of a Youth Information Centre in Naas. The 2007 funding allocation in that regard was €66,074. In addition, my Department funds an annual grant-in-aid Scheme for Local Youth Clubs. An amount of €82,120 was made available in 2007 to Co. Kildare VEC in this regard.

Kildare Youth Service have submitted four (4) new applications for funding in 2008 under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme. These applications cover projects in Clane, Celbridge, Co. Kildare Traveller Youth Projects and the Tracking and Mentoring Project for early School Leavers in North-West Kildare. Pending completion of the 2008 funding allocations process and owing to budgetary constraints and the high level of existing commitments in the sector, I am not in a position to make any commitments with regard to funding for new projects.

Pension Provisions.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

176 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if in the context of the Good Friday Agreement she will explore the possibility of ensuring that a person (details supplied) who has split teaching experience in the public sector on both sides of the Border could have their reckonable service aggregated in order to maximise their pension entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5908/08]

Teaching service given in Northern Ireland is not recognised for the purpose of teachers' superannuation awards in this State as there is no agreement at present between the jurisdictions on the transferability of pension entitlements.

However, as the Deputy may be aware, at an Institutional Format meeting of 30 October 2007 the North/South Ministerial Council considered the issue of cross-border pensions mobility and agreed that the Joint Secretariat should convene a working group of officials from relevant Government Departments to explore options for going forward on the transfer of pension rights on a cross-border basis. That working group met in Armagh on 10 January this year and work is now being undertaken to gather evidence on difficulties experienced by teachers in moving between the jurisdictions — North and South — as a result of the inability to transfer pension entitlements. The working group is scheduled to reconvene in March.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

177 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 964 of 30 January 2008 and in view of the fact that the board of management have submitted an application for the funding of emergency works to address serious health and safety issues, if she will approve funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5706/08]

The Planning and Building Unit of my Department has no record of an application for emergency funding from the school in question. Should an application be received it will be assessed and the school authorities notified of the outcome without delay.

School Transport.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

178 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if transport will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [5732/08]

My Department has requested a report from Bus Éireann on the background to this case. The matter will be given further consideration as soon as the report is received.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

179 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding funding for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [5733/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, all applications for large scale capital funding, including the application in question are assessed against published prioritisation criteria and assigned a band rating. This proposed project has been assigned a Band 2.2 rating. Progress on projects will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme consistent with its band rating.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

180 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on providing permanent positions for special needs assistants who have served a minimum number of years within a particular school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5766/08]

The allocation of special needs assistant posts warranted in primary and second level schools is reviewed on an annual basis by the local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs). They are employed by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). The number of special needs assistants employed in a school may be reduced from full-time to part-time or terminated by way of redundancy where the allocation is reduced. The redundancy agreement was finalised with the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission in 2005.

Revised contracts of employment and terms and conditions of employment were also agreed for the SNAs employed in primary and post primary schools in June 2005. The implementation of the terms of the contracts and the conditions of employment agreed in June 2005 is a matter for each individual school authority as the employer of the SNAs concerned. Officials from my Department and representatives of SNAs meet on a regular basis in relation to matters arising from these agreements in line with normal industrial relations procedures. There are no plans at present to revise the agreements reached in 2005.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

181 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes of either 30 children or more within primary schools in respect of children under the age of nine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5767/08]

Data in respect of the number of classes broken down by class size and age of pupils are not available. As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now in the region of 6,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. By the 2006/07 school year, we had reduced the average class size in our primary schools to 24, while the pupil teacher ratio was 16.4:1, including resource teachers etc. In that year, schools were staffed on the basis of a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Given that the national average was 24, many schools benefited from much more favourable staffing ratios than this.

Extra teachers were provided by the Government for the 2007/08 school year to improve primary school staffing so that schools would generally get at least one classroom teacher for every 27 children. A further initiative in recent years that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 330 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. The Government is committed to providing more teachers to our primary schools over the next five years in order to reduce class sizes. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Teaching Qualifications.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

182 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will estimate from discussions she has had with the Teaching Council, the number of unqualified teachers currently teaching in primary and post-primary education here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5768/08]

The information is currently being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

183 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of small scale building works which are required to be undertaken and funded at a school (details supplied) in County Wexford in view of the suspension of the summer works scheme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that costs have been incurred by this school in preparing projects in expectation that they would be under the summer works scheme; if she will review the decision to suspend the summer works scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5808/08]

An application for the Summer Works Scheme 2008 has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. My Department's circular 0043/2007 regarding the Summer Works Scheme 2008 clearly outlines that the appointment of a consultant to prepare a Technical report must be met in full from a school's own resources. Such a report may be of benefit in the event of future applications for funding.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Summer Works Scheme was introduced in 2004. Since then, over 3,000 projects costing in excess of €300 million have been completed. Considerable extra investment has been provided in the Budget to increase funding for school buildings to almost €600 million this year. With so many small projects having been completed over the past few years, I am focusing on delivering as many large scale projects as possible in 2008. There is not, therefore, a new Summer Works Scheme as part of our building programme this year.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Science the date she will announce the design batch for schools amongst which Ballinamore is to be included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5823/08]

The Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisition, has secured a site for the provision of a new building for the school referred to by the Deputy. The progression of all projects, including the project in question, will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

185 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a school building for a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5851/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at early architectural planning. A stage 2 submission was reviewed by Officials from my Department and some clarification has been requested from the Design Team. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

186 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of State funding allocated to private minority religious schools per annum. [5857/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled by officials in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Site Acquisitions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

187 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the high demand for places in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24, her Department is actively looking to identify a new site in the catchment area for the Gaelscoil. [5858/08]

The Department are in receipt of an application for major capital works from the school to which the Deputy refers. The proposed project will be considered in the context of the Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Communications Masts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

188 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science her views, in view of the growing health concerns surrounding the siting of telecommunications masts near schools for both pupils and staff, on contacting South Dublin County Council for an update in relation to the illegal mast located beside a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [5859/08]

The Planning and Building Unit of my Department has not received any correspondence from the school in question concerning the location of telecommunications masts adjacent to the school building. The Deputy will be aware that the drafting of Planning and Development Regulations relating to mobile phone masts is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The erection of such masts is subject to normal planning regulations which are administered by the relevant Local Authority, in this case South Dublin County Council. I am aware that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government issued guidelines on Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures to planning authorities in 1996 and that these guidelines are still in place.

In 2005 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources issued a report titled "Report on non-ionising radiation from mobile phone handsets and masts". On foot of the recommendations of the report that Department established an inter-departmental committee to examine the health effects, if any, of non-ionising radiation. I understand that this committee in their report concluded that no adverse short or long-term health effects have been found from exposure to the radio frequency signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

189 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if the devolved grant will be in place for 2008; when she expects to invite applications from schools for this grant in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5904/08]

Decisions regarding the allocation of funding in respect of the devolved scheme referred to by the Deputy will be taken in due course, in the context of my Department's School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Enrolments.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

190 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the guidelines or procedures laid down by her Department for a situation (details supplied); the mechanisms available to ensure that the student is able to enrol in a second level school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5911/08]

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. However, in formulating an admissions policy a school must ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school. Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department; where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

Energy Resources.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

191 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary schools that use renewable energy for the purposes of heating the school building or the school’s water supply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5923/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

192 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary schools that use oil fuel central heating; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5924/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

193 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary schools that use gas central heating; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5925/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

194 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary schools that do not have insulated walls and attics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5926/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

195 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary schools that do not have double glazed windows; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5927/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 to 195, inclusive, together.

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, my Department is reviewing renewable options for energy generation in schools through a number of research projects including, Tory wind turbine project, Interreg solar hot water heating projects and Biomass wood pellet / wood chip boiler and solar projects. My Department would encourage schools to consider the use of wind generated electricity which is available nationally through the National Grid. This in effect allows the school to benefit from the environmental and lower cost benefits of wind generated electricity without being exposed to operating and maintenance issues and reliability of supply.

With respect to energy programmes that would compliment environmental work currently taking place under the green flags initiative for the past nine years the Planning and Building Unit within my Department have been using a process called the DART approach (Design, Awareness, Research, and Technology) to develop sustainable and energy efficiency in educational buildings. The policy is driven by technical guidance documents, informed by building unit professional and technical staff, external partnerships and updated by continued energy research and development.

Rather than develop a unique focus on energy design my Department has taken a more holistic approach and have developed their technical guidance on energy efficiency in school designs as an integral part of the suite of technical guidance documents. These guidelines encourage the design team to take a complete design team approach from project conception. The incorporation of low energy design has been done on a hybrid basis by maximising natural resources and utilising technologies. This involves focusing on areas such as natural ventilation, passive solar design, day lighting and reducing infiltration, enhanced insulation, lighting and heating controls and water efficiency.

The focus to date on sustainability in schools has been to reduce the energy demand in schools. This has proven quite successful with modern day schools typically using three times less energy than schools built ten years ago and also using less than half the energy than what is termed as good international practice for schools.

School Curriculum.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

196 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the way primary and post-primary curricula incorporate awareness of the need to conserve energy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5928/08]

Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) is a specific area of learning at all levels in the primary school and incorporates the subjects of History, Geography and Science. The aims of social environmental and scientific education include to

To foster an understanding and concern for the interdependence of all humans, all living things, and the Earth on which they live

To foster a sense of responsibility for the long term care of the environment and a commitment to promote the sustainable use of the Earth's resources through his/her lifestyle and participation in collective environmental decision-making

Environmental Awareness and Care and Caring for the Environment are specific strands featured at every level of the primary Science and Geography curricula respectively. The content ranges from keeping the classroom tidy and caring for toys, disposing of litter, and appreciating that people share the environment with plant and animal life in the infant classes, to understanding ecosystems and the impact of human activity on the environment, becoming aware of the need to conserve resources, and the impact of science and technology in familiar contexts by sixth class. Global environmental issues such as farming practices, traffic congestion, pollution, ozone depletion, global warming etc are featured by sixth class. In History students study life, society, work and culture in the past, and its impact over time.

At second level, these subjects are continued at both junior and senior cycle level. In addition, the general themes of stewardship, respect for others and ethical and responsible decision-making are featured strongly in other subjects such as Social, Personal and Health Education, Civic Social and Political Education, Enterprise, Home Economics and Business Education. For example within Home Economics, issues such as management of the environment, renewable and non-renewable resources, recycling, pollution, social economic and technological change and its impact on families, housing (including energy efficient homes) are covered.

Environmental and Social Studies is one of the recommended areas of experience in the Transition Year programme. Within the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, Science and the Environment is featured as part of the Science curriculum. Overall, education for sustainable development is a significant theme underpinning many subjects within the curriculum in our schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

197 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied), an ABA school in County Galway had to secure funding through the court in 2002, and the budget for this school has been reduced on a yearly basis; the further reason each child is offered less than in 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5929/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

198 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) was established in 2002 as a consequence of a court hearing costing the Government €2.2 million defending the case; the reason her Department does not support the school with proper buildings and facilities; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the school is forced to work from two domestic dwellings 5 km apart from each other; when her Department will provide proper facilities for this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5930/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

201 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that a centre (details supplied) in County Galway can qualify for capital funding to develop the urgently needed and purpose built premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5933/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197, 198 and 201 together.

I would like to advise the Deputy that a pilot scheme funded directly through my Department has facilitated the establishment of a number of stand-alone autism units using the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) methodology. The unit referred to by the Deputy is being funded through this scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government commits to the long-term funding for the centres that are currently in the ABA pilot scheme subject to agreement with my Department on standards that will enable the Department to support them as primary schools for children with autism. These discussions include the issue of capital funding. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that discussions on this matter are progressing. My Department is currently in discussions with the centre in question concerning its budget allocation for this financial year. My Department does not comment on the legal costs associated with individual cases.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

199 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason ABA tutors, teachers and special needs assistant workers are not entitled to pensions and proper sick pay schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5931/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

200 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the affirmation of ongoing State support for the 12 existing ABA centres, she will confirm that it is in order for those centres to accept additional pupils in 2008 and to expand to meet the demands of children and families who have applied for placement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5932/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

202 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that pupils who so require services can avail of the full ABA programme up to 18 years in the 12 ABA centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5934/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199, 200 and 202 together.

The Deputy will be aware of my commitment to ensuring that all children including those with special needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers who have received additional training in autism, special needs assistants, and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. As each child with autism is unique it is important that children have access to a range of methods so their broader needs can be met.

In excess of 275 autism-specific classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level by my Department in conjunction with National Council for Special Education (NCSE), while more are being set up as required. At primary level there are a maximum of six children in each special class with a teacher and at least two special needs assistants. Extra assistants are provided where the children need them on a case by case basis.

My Department is currently funding a number of ABA pilot schemes which was established in the absence of this network of special classes in our schools. The Deputy will be aware that the pilot programme was established in the absence of the network of special classes that is now in our schools and will not be expanded. We will continue to work to ensure that all children can have access to a broad programme, with provision for ABA as appropriate, in special classes. However, now that a national network of special classes is available, the existing ABA centres will not be expanded under the current arrangements. We are determined instead to ensure that each child has access to the autism-specific education that is now being made available to schools throughout the country.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government commits to the long-term funding for the centres that are currently in the ABA pilot programme subject to agreement with my Department on standards that will enable the Department to support them as primary schools for children with autism. I am pleased to advise that the issue is being actively progressed and my Department officials have met with the IAA on several occasions to progress this matter. While these discussions are ongoing, my Department will not fund any expansion in the number of children attending the centres. Special Schools cater for children up until they are 18 years of age.

I would also like to advise the Deputy that it is a mandatory requirement for all teachers and special needs assistants who are employed in schools recognised by my Department to participate in the State's pension scheme. The issue of pensionability has been raised by the trade union representing staff in ABA centres that form part of the pilot scheme. These issues are the subject of ongoing discussions in the context of the commitment given in the Programme for Government.

Question No. 201 answered with Question No. 197.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 199.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

203 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she will take to refund the costs to schools of submitting applications under the defunct summer works scheme 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5935/08]

My Department's circular 0043/2007 regarding the Summer Works Scheme 2008 clearly outlines that the appointment of a consultant to prepare a Technical report must be met in full from a school's own resources. Such a report may be of benefit in the event of future applications for funding.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Summer Works Scheme was introduced in 2004. Since then, over 3,000 projects costing in excess of €300 million have been completed. Considerable extra investment has been provided in the Budget to increase funding for school buildings to almost €600 million this year. With so many small projects having been completed over the past few years, I am focusing on delivering as many large scale projects as possible in 2008. There is not, therefore, a new Summer Works Scheme as part of our building programme this year.

Citizenship Applications.

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

204 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5691/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in August 2007. Applications are generally dealt with in chronological order and this practice is not deviated from except in exceptional circumstances. However, I understand that a submission will shortly be made to my Office for a decision on whether this case might be expedited.

Residency Permits.

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

205 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary for long term residency in the State; when a decision will be made on that application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5703/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in August 2007 and an acknowledgement has recently issued to him. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

206 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions for driving without a full driving licence, that were handed down to learner drivers from Northern Ireland who travelled on southern roads in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5739/08]

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics since the third quarter of 2006. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Garda Investigations.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

207 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make available the Garda forensic engineer’s report on a fatal accident (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5747/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that persons involved in road traffic collisions, their legal advisers or insurers or other interested parties may, on written request, be supplied with an abstract of the police report, copies of statements of witnesses and sketches or maps of the scene. I am further informed that abstract reports will not be supplied if criminal proceedings are contemplated or initiated. In the case of fatal road traffic collisions the abstracts will not be supplied until the inquest concerning the death has been completed by the Coroner.

In the case referred to by the Deputy, the Garda investigation has been completed, and the Director of Public Prosecutions has directed that there should be no prosecution. With regard to an investigation initiated by the Health and Safety Authority, Donegal County Council has taken judicial review proceedings. These proceedings are still pending and a final decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of this aspect of the case has not been made. It is also understood that the inquest into the death of the person referred to will be re-opened, but no date has been set.

Residency Permits.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

208 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12, who has applied for long term residency some time ago has not had a decision made regarding their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5773/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 26th July 2006. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

It is noted that the person concerned did not attend her local Immigration office to have her permission to remain renewed since 27th October 2006, therefore she has resided illegally in the State since that date. The Immigration Division of my Department will be in touch with the person concerned outlining the options available to her.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5782/08]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 2 October, 2001 and had her claim examined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, following which it was recommended that she should be recognised as a refugee. Based on this recommendation, the person concerned was advised of my decision to issue her with a formal declaration of refugee status by letter dated 29 July, 2002. This communication also advised the person concerned of the rights and entitlements accompanying refugee status in the State. The person concerned continues to hold the status of refugee in the State.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the naturalisation process will be concluded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is in full time employment and education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5783/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in September 2005. Officials in that section recently wrote to the applicant, requesting further documentation, at the address provided in his application. A further letter has now issued to the address provided by the Deputy. Processing of the application will continue on receipt of the documents requested. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose wife has a permit to work here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5786/08]

The Immigration Division of my Department has recently received an application from the person referred to by the Deputy. As soon as a decision is made on the case the person concerned will be notified.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency status and family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5787/08]

The first named person was given a declaration of refugee status on 24 June 2005, based on the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. As a recognised refugee, it would be open to him to make an application for Family Reunification, based on the provisions of Section 18 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). My Department has no record of having received such an application.

The second named person concerned arrived in the State on 5 July 2002 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), she was informed, by letter dated 19 August 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5788/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 7 May 2003 and applied for asylum on 28 May 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5789/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 28 August 2000 and claimed asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The person concerned was informed by a letter dated 22 January 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended): namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order, or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, i.e. why he should not be deported.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to all representations submitted on his behalf for permission to remain in the State. On 12 July 2004 my predecessor refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau, 13-14 Burgh Quay on Tuesday 10 August 2004 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. He failed to comply with his reporting requirements and was classified as evading his deportation. He should therefore present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without any further delay. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Bureau.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5790/08]

The Deputy may wish to note that in the details supplied, one of the reference numbers does not correspond with the name provided. I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the person whose name he supplied. Notwithstanding this, it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on these applications will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5791/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. While it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications, I would point out to the Deputy that delays in finalising cases can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings, where appellants pursue such a course of action.

Where the latter is relevant, the time taken to discharge any proceedings is a matter for the Courts and is not something I can comment on. It is, of course, open to the applicant or the appellant to withdraw any Judicial Review proceedings which they may have instigated and this would allow for their appeal to be processed in the normal manner. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5792/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person concerned was granted permission to remain in September 2004 under family reunification and has permission to remain until the 30th August 2008. However there is no record of any application in respect of the daughter of the person referred to by the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5794/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 30 August 2002 and claimed asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The person concerned was informed by letter dated 19 June 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e why he should not be deported.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to all representations submitted on his behalf for permission to remain in the State. On 11 September 2003 my predecessor refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present himself to Anglesea Street Garda Station, Cork on Thursday 13 November 2003 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. He failed to comply with his reporting requirements and was classified as evading his deportation. He should therefore present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without any further delay.

An application under Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), seeking revocation of the deportation order was lodged by the legal representatives of the person concerned in April of last year. Same is under ongoing consideration in my Department and it is anticipated that the person concerned will be notified of a decision in this matter in the near future.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5795/08]

The Deputy may wish to note that in the details supplied, the reference number and name do not correspond with each other. I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the person whose name he supplied. Notwithstanding this, it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

220 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or anticipated residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5796/08]

The applicants referred to by the Deputy applied for asylum on 18 August 2004. Their claims were assessed by the Refugee Applications Commissioner who concluded that they did not meet the criteria for recognition as refugees. The Commissioner's recommendations were communicated to the applicants by letters dated 11 April 2005, and 22 April 2005 respectively. These communications advised the applicants of their entitlements to appeal the Commissioner's recommendations to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which they duly did.

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal considered these applicants' appeals, following which the Tribunal affirmed the Commissioner's earlier recommendations to reject their claims. The outcomes of these appeals were made known to the applicants by letters dated 22 January 2008. In accordance with normal procedures, these applicants' files have been forwarded to my Department's Ministerial Decisions Unit for final processing of their asylum claims. Letters will be issued to them from my Department shortly, advising them formally that their asylum claims have been rejected and affording them three options as follows:

1. Return home voluntarily;

2. Consent to the making of a deportation order, or

3. Make written representations to the repatriation unit within 15 working days for temporary leave to remain in the state and/or make an application for subsidiary protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (SI No. 518 of 2006).

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position or progress in the matter of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5797/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 15 April 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 August 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Consideration of the case file of the person concerned is nearing completion and I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in the near future.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when residency status is expected to be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5798/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 10 June 2003 and applied for asylum on 11 August 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 2 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

223 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [5853/08]

As outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1135 put down for answer on 30th January 2008, the persons referred to by the Deputy were recently granted permission to remain in the State. The purpose of this permission is to enable an employer to lodge a work permit application on their behalf. It is open to the persons concerned to lodge an application for Citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory residency requirements applicable at that time.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

224 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date on the pilot scheme announced by his Department in March 2007 to provide capital funding for housing schemes occupied by older persons; if his attention has been drawn to the benefits this scheme could have if implemented in the designated 12 pilot areas as soon as possible; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5938/08]

The Deputy will be aware that a scheme to provide capital funding for the installation and operation of CCTV systems in local authority housing schemes and housing projects operated by not-for-profit organisations occupied by older persons was announced last year. This scheme will initially operate on a pilot basis, it is intended to include a number of areas which will provide a rural/urban mix and it will also include projects from RAPID areas. The aim of this scheme is to provide protection for elderly persons who would not normally be in a position to provide CCTV systems for themselves. These communities are sometimes affected by criminal and anti-social behaviour around their own homes. I am convinced that CCTV will be an important deterrent and also provide peace of mind to the residents in these areas.

Work on the pilot scheme, including the development of guidelines and technical specifications, is being brought forward by my Department in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Irish Council for Social Housing and An Garda Síochána in the context of the ongoing roll-out of the Community-based CCTV scheme. The timetable is linked to the further roll out of the Joint Policing Committees as, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Joint Policing Committee for the relevant local authority area must be consulted before the local authority can approve an application to the Garda Commissioner for authorisation for a CCTV system. Following consultations with my colleagues the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs I intend to issue, as soon as possible, revised guidelines to enable roll-out of the committees to all local authority areas in the State. The guidelines will provide inter alia a timetable for this roll-out.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

225 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation in relation to environmental protection, pollution, water quality and waste management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5755/08]

My Department is undertaking a number of ongoing actions to promote co-operation on North South environmental issues. These are outlined below.

There is a high level of North/ South co-ordination in relation to water quality matters, particularly in context of the EU Water Framework Directive. The North/South Working Group on Water Quality was set up by the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in June 2000 to look at water policy issues. In March 2003 proposals were made for the delineation of International River Basin Districts (IRBDs) under the Water Framework Directive. The proposals were agreed and legislation for transposition of the Directive was enacted in each jurisdiction in December 2003. The NS SHARE (North/South Shared Aquatic Resource), project serves to enhance technical cooperation on implementation of the Directive and reflects the designation of the Island of Ireland as a single eco-region, Ecoregion 17 (Water Framework Directive Annex XI). The project commenced in 2004 and is due for completion in 2008.

At the most recent meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in Environment Sectoral Format, on 26 October 2007, the Council agreed that implementation of the Water Framework Directive for the three IRBDs falling within the scope of the Directive should proceed on the basis of single management plans for each IRBD. The Council requested the North South Water Framework Coordination Group of officials, which takes forward this work, to report on progress at its next meeting.

The NSMC agreed that a co-operative approach should be taken to encourage and support the expansion of waste recycling. The Council agreed that the North/South Market Development Steering Group (NSMDSG) should submit proposals for developing an all-island strategic approach to market development for recyclable material. Since then, both the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland and my Department have published documents outlining their approach to Market Development. Both documents provide detailed work programmes for each of the Departments over the coming years and highlight the potential for value to be added by all-island market development initiatives.

At the NSMC Environmental Sector meeting in October 2007 it was decided to establish a newly mandated NSMDSG to drive forward a programme focused on specific deliverables of mutual benefit, exploiting opportunities to benefit from economies of scale. The establishment of the Group is now the subject of ongoing discussions between the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland and my Department. Ireland will be represented on the Group by officials from my Department and Enterprise Ireland while Northern Ireland will be represented by DOE and Invest NI. Further work is ongoing in finalising the membership arrangements and the Terms of Reference for the Group.

A new study led by the NSMDSG to determine the feasibility of establishing a paper mill on the island of Ireland was initiated in 2004 and the Phase 1 Study Report was published in August 2006. The feasibility study is the first of two phases and the project was funded jointly by DOE through WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) and my Department. The project was managed by WRAP.

Provisional findings from the first stage of an interim phase — taking soundings from individual businesses in the sector — indicate that the paper manufacturing/converting and waste management sectors show favourable interest in exploring the establishment of a tissue mill on the island. Consequently a more formal sectoral group meeting will be convened to test this level of interest amongst the key industrial players. It is proposed to hold a special stakeholder meeting to discuss the matter in March 2008. A favourable response would lead to a recommendation being made to NSMDSG to progress Phase 2.

The EU Regulation on Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) for domestic fridges and freezers requires the removal of all ODS from waste fridges and freezers on disposal. An all-island contract for an effective system of management, including collection, transportation, storage and treatment in both jurisdictions was agreed and the joint contract was launched by Ministers in April 2004. The scheme proved very successful while in operation and in November 2004 it was declared the winner of the UK National Recycling Awards in the category of "Best Partnership Project for Recycling". Over 175,000 units were collected for processing under the joint scheme. The contract ended in August 2005, as the recovery of fridges and freezers is now handled under the scheme which implements the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

Officials from my Department and the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland have agreed a Road Map for tackling cross-border movements of waste. The Road Map sets out a mechanism for dealing with waste which has already moved from Ireland to Northern Ireland (‘historic waste') and plans for co-ordinated enforcement activities. The Road Map has been welcomed by the European Commission. It commits both sides to co-operating in dealing with this legacy issue. There is ongoing communication between officials from my Department and from the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland with a view to resolving issues to a mutual satisfaction.

The NSMC commissioned work to set up a joint register of current environmental research projects. In April 2002 the answer (a North/South Website of Environmental Research) website was launched. The website serves as a central information point for all environmental research carried out on the island of Ireland. It includes a shared register of Environmental Data Sources (EDS), to date only populated with information on water data. The website is being maintained on a joint funding basis by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environment and Heritage Service. Currently answer has around 800 members and over 9000 visits to the site were recorded up to March 2007. At the NSMC sectoral meeting in October 2007 it was agreed to undertake a review of answer/ EDS to consider longer term management options and determine a cost-effective way forward.

The NSMC agreed that officials should work together to explore and develop opportunities for information exchange and joint environmental education and awareness in raising areas of common interest. Key developments since have included:

A series of Colloquiums on Recycling for Environment Awareness Officers from Ireland and local authority Recycling Officers from Northern Ireland.

Environment and Heritage Service and Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government co-sponsorship of Eco Unesco Young Environmentalist Awards.

Sharing of environmental education publications between Environment and Heritage Service and ENFO, resulting in significantly extended series of publications being produced by both organisations.

Delivery of a strategic approach to managing invasive alien species of plants and animals that pose a threat to biodiversity. This is being co-ordinated jointly by Environment and Heritage Service (DOE) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (DEHLG).

Joint sponsorship between Environment and Heritage Service and Environmental Protection Agency of the Eco Eye environmental television series (RTE1) in January to March 2007.

Joint sponsorship between Environment and Heritage Service and border councils (Fermanagh, Newry and Mourne, Armagh, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan) of the Hidden Heritage environmental television series (UTV) in January 2007.

The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland and my Department commissioned the Queen's University Belfast based consultancy Quercus to prepare a research report on "Invasive Species in Ireland". The Report was prepared in March 2006. The recommendations from this report are being progressed through a jointly funded contract over a three year period ending in 2009. A joint steering group has been established comprising experts in this field, and an all-island stakeholder forum was also held in March 2007.

The production of the joint species action plans is an important element of the work being undertaken to meet the requirements of the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. To date four species action plans have been published covering the Corncrake, the Pollan (an Irish freshwater fish), the Irish Hare and the Irish Lady's Tresses Orchid. Additional plans for the Red Squirrel, the Killarney Fern and nine bat species have recently completed a period of public consultation and will be published shortly.

Both jurisdictions have also established independent biodiversity stakeholder groups, the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group (NIBG) and in Ireland, the Biodiversity Forum. In recognition of the need for collaborative approaches, the Chair of both the Forum and the NIBG are represented on the alternate group along with officials from both Departments. Recently, a sup-group of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group and the Biodiversity Forum was established to consider further areas where cooperation would be beneficial. The report of the sub-group will be considered by officials in both Departments in due course.

An all-island biodiversity conference was held on 2 October 2007 in Athlone. The conference focused on the EU target to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 and beyond and drew together stakeholders in the process. Ministers addressed this conference indicating support for the important initiative. A further all-island conference focussing on biodiversity and climate change is planned for later this year.

Further details on work carried out under the NSMC can be found on the Joint Secretariat's website at www.northsouthministerialcouncil.org where all the joint communiqués are available.

Electoral Boundaries.

John Cregan

Ceist:

226 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that immediately following on the next census of population, a Dáil Constituency Boundary Commission will deliberate on boundary changes based on preliminary census figures, thus bringing recommendations to him before 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5690/08]

Work is underway on the drafting of the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008 which will, inter alia, provide for revision of Dáil and European Parliament constituencies in accordance with the recommendations of the Constituency Commission which reported in October 2007. The Bill will also provide for the establishment of future Constituency Commissions on publication by CSO of the preliminary results in respect of a census of population and for the work of a Commission to be completed following publication of final population data relating to the relevant census.

Planning Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

227 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the exact date on which he will publish the consultation draft of the guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable development in urban areas. [5724/08]

I published for public consultation the Draft Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas on 10 February. The public consultation period is for 12 weeks and closes at 4pm on Tuesday 6 May 2008. All comments and submissions on the draft guidelines will be welcome within the consultation period.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

228 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to his answer to Parliamentary Question No. 1360 of 30 January 2008, the details of the negative impact altering the condition of local authority mortgage protection insurance schemes would have; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that consumer watchdogs have consistently warned against these schemes as they may not represent value for money for the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5725/08]

The negative impact referred to relates to increased mortgage protection insurance costs which would arise for borrowers if the obligatory nature of the arrangements were altered. The Mortgage Protection Committee, which is a sub-committee of the County and City Managers' Association and is also representative of the Housing Finance Agency and my Department, has recently appointed a consultant to carry out an independent evaluation of the scope and effectiveness of the current scheme having regard to a range of issues including the product currently available to borrowers, the compulsory nature of the scheme and cost issues. The Committee will consider the recommendations of this review following receipt of the consultants' report.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

229 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans, both funding and time-frame, in place to continue the urban and village renewal scheme 2000 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5726/08]

The National Development Plan provides for EU and Exchequer investment of some €170 million to facilitate the ongoing closure of the urban and village renewal measure of the Regional Operational Programmes 2000-2006, and to support the implementation of a new urban renewal programme for the period to 2013. I intend shortly to announce details of this programme.

Site Acquisitions.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

230 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects a site (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be issued post tender approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5765/08]

The application for post tender approval is being considered in the light of the additional information received from Dublin City Council on 18 January, 2008, and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

231 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the expenditure on services for homeless people, excluding capital support funding, by local authorities in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Dundalk in each of the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5802/08]

My Department recoups 90% of expenditure by local authorities on the provision of accommodation for homeless persons under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. Funding to local authorities for the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons has increased significantly since the adoption of the Integrated Strategy on Adult Homelessness in 2000, with €12.6m provided in that year increasing to €52.9m in 2007, amounting to €329m in total over the seven-year period. These figures represent the 90% recoupment by my Department, with local authorities responsible for the remaining 10%. This implies that total funding channelled through local authorities between 2000 and 2007 amounted to some €366m.

A total of €166.4 million was recouped by my Department to local authorities in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Dundalk for the period 2004 to 2007. Including the 10% contribution by the local authorities themselves, the total expenditure on accommodation and related services for homeless persons by the local authorities concerned in the period 2004 to 2007 figure was €184.9 million. The following table sets out the relevant expenditure over that period.

Table: Expenditure on Accommodation and Related Services for Homeless Persons by Local Authorities in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Dundalk; 2004-2007.

Local Authority

2007

2006

2005

2004

Total

Dublin City Council

40,945,451.73

37,765,364.6

34,462,340.87

35,548,501.57

148,721,658.77

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

942,193.62

1,144,133.67

628,048.48

702,955.01

3,417,330.78

Fingal County Council

431,029.00

635,817.00

229,265.00

522,147.22

1,818,258.22

South Dublin County Council

773,355.64

695,536.54

475,730.59

566,794.08

2,511,416.85

Cork City Council

3,839,106.00

3,662,401.77

2,927,835.26

3,341,200.54

13,770,543.57

Cork County Council Includes some expenditure in respect of Youghal

143,836.00

207,564.00

104,150.98

143,508.55

599,059.53

Galway City Council

1,639,296.47

1,768,795.34

1,589,836.10

1,596,368.91

6,594,296.82

Galway County Council Includes some expenditure in respect of Ballinasloe

119,436.84

132,361.94

119,451.45

117,310.56

488,560.79

Waterford City Council

1,189,165.82

983,766.44

971,460.21

937,735.03

4,082,127.50

Waterford County Council Includes some expenditure in respect of Dungarvan

7,137.43

4,026.00

9,891.00

12,649.00

33,703.43

Dundalk Town Council

863,801.70

753,820.74

684,976.00

558,846.71

2,861,445.15

Total

50,893,810.25

47,753,588.04

42,202,985.94

44,048,017.18

184,898,401.41

Local Authority Housing.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

232 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, under his Department’s regulations on rent payments to local authorities, the living alone allowance and the fuel allowance are excluded in the determination of the total family income that local authorities calculate the rent payments on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5835/08]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

247 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the regulations his Department has to determine the amount that a local authority can charge a tenant for the renting of a local authority house; if a 10% rise or greater in rent is permissible under the regulations in one actual increase; if there is a national average determined by him in relation to such rent increases; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such a 10% or greater increase in rent will in fact mean that a social welfare recipient will pay all of the recent family budget 2008 increases to the local authority as part of the rent increase (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5914/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 247 together.

The making and amending of rent schemes is the responsibility of local authorities as an integral part of their housing management functions, subject to the following broad principles laid down by my Department in Circular letter HRT 3/2002 of 6 March 2002:

the rent payable should be related to income and a smaller proportion of income should be required from low income households;

allowances should be made for dependent children including those under 21 years of age in full-time education;

a contribution towards rent should be required from subsidiary earners in the household;

provision should be included for the acceptance of a lower rent than that required under the terms of the scheme in exceptional cases where payment of the normal rent would give rise to hardship; and

appropriate local factors should be taken into account including the costs of the maintenance and management of the stock of rented dwellings and the adequacy of the rental income to meet such costs.

Decisions on whether or not to disregard either a proportion of income or particular sources of income, including the living alone allowance and the fuel allowance, for the purposes of calculating rents are matters for each individual local authority and I have no function in such matters. I consider it important that housing authorities should ensure that rent increases do not absorb an excessive amount of increases in income of tenants on low-incomes, dependent on Social Welfare payments, and in particular, on Old Age pension. My Department advised authorities in Circular letter HRT 3/2002 that, as a general guideline, it is considered that no more than 15% of any increase in such pension income should be absorbed by an increase in rent.

Local Authority Funding.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

233 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will seriously review the local government budget allocated to Clare County Council as services across the board provided by the local authority are under severe pressure as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5844/08]

I am providing some €999.2m in general purpose grants from the Local Government Fund to local authorities for 2008. These grants are my contribution to meet the difference between the cost to local authorities of providing an acceptable level of day to day services and the income available to them from local sources and from specific grants. The amount being made available for these grants this year represents an increase of some €51.5m over the amount provided for 2007 and continues the trend of providing additional general funding to local authorities through the Local Government Fund.

Clare County Council's general purpose allocation for 2008 is €16,476,569, an increase of 5.13% over the 2007 allocation. General purpose grants to Clare County Council have increased by some 460% since 1997, which is more than twice the average increase to local authorities over that period. There are no additional resources available to me to increase general purpose funding to local authorities this year. I am satisfied that the general purpose allocation I have provided to the Council for 2008, together with the income available to it from other sources, will enable it to provide an acceptable level of services to its customers.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

234 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the general purpose grants allocated to each local authority throughout the State in 2005, 2006 and 2007; if he will provide an analysis of the general purpose grants allocated to each local authority throughout the State in 2005, 2006 and 2007 when compared to populations in each county; the income generated from rates collected in each local authority throughout the State in 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5845/08]

The information requested in the question is set out in the attached tables. General purpose grants from the Local Government Fund are my contribution to meet the difference between the cost to local authorities of providing an acceptable level of day to day services and the income available to them from local sources and from specific grants. These grants are allocated having regard to a range of factors including the overall funding available for these grants, the cost to each local authority of providing its services, the income available to each local authority from local sources and specific grants and the need to ensure that each local authority receives a baseline allocation that will provide financial stability.

Local Government Fund General Purpose Grant Allocations 2005-2007

Local Authority

2005

2006

2007

Carlow County Council

10,682,438

11,791,970

12,536,458

Cavan County Council

16,821,425

18,075,814

19,526,749

Clare County Council

13,831,947

14,741,484

15,672,190

Cork County Council

49,050,276

51,554,596

54,809,504

Donegal County Council

35,713,379

38,547,272

41,556,957

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

35,043,452

37,109,051

39,451,937

Fingal County Council

28,844,494

30,317,184

32,231,264

Galway County Council

32,616,878

35,296,907

38,490,666

Kerry County Council

23,399,482

25,497,932

27,600,743

Kildare County Council

21,799,170

23,893,115

26,476,801

Kilkenny County Council

17,878,074

19,226,389

20,827,594

Laois County Council

15,968,328

17,019,082

18,336,335

Leitrim County Council

13,063,981

14,168,597

15,465,369

Limerick County Council

22,513,686

24,160,987

26,101,406

Longford County Council

12,508,061

13,296,084

14,657,063

Louth County Council

11,496,518

12,083,486

13,390,136

Mayo County Council

32,568,821

35,170,634

38,012,273

Meath County Council

23,776,226

26,089,431

28,583,173

Monaghan County Council

13,287,104

14,363,459

15,718,151

North Tipperary County Council

16,453,791

17,775,415

19,357,349

Offaly County Council

13,965,967

14,662,707

16,230,539

Roscommon County Council

19,318,766

20,646,920

22,198,317

Sligo County Council

15,161,087

16,617,403

17,723,150

South Dublin County Council

23,442,061

24,638,923

26,194,505

South Tipperary County Council

19,813,401

21,643,602

23,696,915

Waterford County Council

18,900,701

20,618,871

22,848,496

Westmeath County Council

18,088,035

19,562,134

21,387,695

Wexford County Council

19,026,652

20,163,308

22,172,296

Wicklow County Council

17,437,258

18,791,404

20,291,251

Cork City Council

22,070,779

24,267,960

26,892,180

Dublin City Council

86,806,479

93,847,042

100,310,537

Galway City Council

8,306,487

8,765,669

9,357,649

Limerick City Council

10,401,855

11,025,361

11,721,449

Waterford City Council

7,538,868

8,030,490

8,537,496

Clonmel Borough Council

3,026,749

3,246,558

3,454,446

Drogheda Borough Council

4,305,655

4,525,485

4,947,336

Kilkenny Borough Council

1,791,342

1,882,801

2,001,672

Sligo Borough Council

2,896,281

3,137,649

3,335,745

Wexford Borough Council

2,208,137

2,320,876

2,467,405

Arklow Town Council

1,404,822

1,539,764

1,706,267

Athlone Town Council

1,751,512

1,911,434

2,032,113

Athy Town Council

651,493

714,073

777,620

Ballina Town Council

1,415,439

1,529,354

1,676,625

Ballinasloe Town Council

823,783

902,912

963,718

Birr Town Council

732,175

787,852

846,550

Bray Town Council

4,163,243

4,375,802

4,778,238

Buncrana Town Council

845,720

888,899

945,020

Bundoran Town Council

571,006

600,159

638,050

Carlow Town Council

1,704,188

1,822,194

1,937,239

Carrickmacross Town Council

530,247

572,465

628,815

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council

997,256

1,093,049

1,211,246

Cashel Town Council

609,661

668,223

717,796

Castlebar Town Council

985,490

1,035,805

1,101,201

Castleblaney Town Council

451,925

479,048

510,858

Cavan Town Council

816,951

858,661

912,873

Clonakilty Town Council

592,585

622,840

662,163

Clones Town Council

499,544

547,528

606,735

Cobh Town Council

1,171,706

1,231,529

1,327,858

Dundalk Town Council

4,947,412

5,235,951

5,599,979

Dungarvan Town Council

985,620

1,035,942

1,101,346

Ennis Town Council

2,311,619

2,429,641

2,583,037

Enniscorthy Town Council

1,172,357

1,232,213

1,310,009

Fermoy Town Council

810,242

861,728

916,133

Kells Town Council

465,921

492,876

527,987

Killarney Town Council

1,679,917

1,785,532

1,942,242

Kilrush Town Council

585,584

620,096

675,554

Kinsale Town Council

396,511

418,957

445,408

Letterkenny Town Council

1,098,543

1,174,987

1,249,170

Listowel Town Council

726,879

780,150

841,180

Longford Town Council

1,171,116

1,230,909

1,308,623

Macroom Town Council

574,137

617,174

656,139

Mallow Town Council

1,048,414

1,105,565

1,175,365

Midleton Town Council

509,574

566,376

602,134

Monaghan Town Council

1,118,222

1,182,079

1,256,710

Naas Town Council

1,297,736

1,422,392

1,512,195

Navan Town Council

536,408

573,212

616,374

Nenagh Town Council

1,056,881

1,116,928

1,197,754

New Ross Town Council

904,943

973,173

1,033,315

Skibbereen Town Council

428,360

450,230

478,655

Templemore Town Council

579,703

624,685

688,381

Thurles Town Council

922,598

989,427

1,069,192

Tipperary Town Council

785,111

862,904

917,384

Tralee Town Council

3,108,105

3,275,876

3,482,699

Trim Town Council

536,670

569,104

614,994

Tullamore Town Council

1,254,885

1,318,955

1,402,227

Westport Town Council

816,087

857,753

911,907

Wicklow Town Council

1,516,377

1,634,559

1,737,757

Youghal Town Council

1,098,495

1,158,759

1,231,917

General Purpose Grants 2005-2007 Grant Per Capita

Local Authority Name

2005

2006

2007

Carlow County Council

325.72

321.08

341.35

Cavan County Council

317.34

300.92

325.07

Clare County Council

169.20

167.23

177.79

Cork County Council

170.25

159.57

169.65

Donegal County Council

286.83

303.32

327.00

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

178.42

191.25

203.32

Fingal County Council

150.39

126.33

134.30

Galway County Council

237.63

230.39

251.23

Kerry County Council

242.54

249.62

270.20

Kildare County Council

156.15

150.89

167.21

Kilkenny County Council

249.18

243.69

263.98

Laois County Council

271.69

253.79

273.44

Leitrim County Council

506.38

489.42

534.21

Limerick County Council

185.63

183.71

198.47

Longford County Council

516.07

496.70

547.54

Louth County Council

249.37

226.89

251.42

Mayo County Council

352.60

359.01

388.02

Meath County Council

187.76

167.79

183.83

Monaghan County Council

320.33

323.04

353.50

North Tipperary County Council

330.38

358.94

390.88

Offaly County Council

259.72

262.41

290.47

Roscommon County Council

486.29

351.33

377.73

Sligo County Council

330.47

386.43

412.15

South Dublin County Council

98.15

99.78

106.08

South Tipperary County Council

389.33

393.13

430.42

Waterford County Council

380.05

379.02

420.01

Westmeath County Council

280.42

300.96

329.05

Wexford County Council

193.02

175.37

192.84

Wicklow County Council

244.06

233.40

252.03

Cork City Council

179.35

203.22

225.19

Dublin City Council

175.09

185.39

198.16

Galway City Council

126.18

121.05

129.22

Limerick City Council

192.54

209.85

223.10

Waterford City Council

169.06

175.54

186.62

Clonmel Borough Council

192.31

209.70

223.13

Drogheda Borough Council

151.97

156.20

170.76

Kilkenny Borough Council

208.51

217.39

231.11

Sligo Borough Council

156.78

175.37

186.44

Wexford Borough Council

233.69

262.13

278.68

Arklow Town Council

141.12

131.47

145.69

Athlone Town Council

238.17

133.23

141.64

Athy Town Council

107.70

89.90

97.90

Ballina Town Council

149.34

152.08

166.73

Ballinasloe Town Council

137.66

149.27

159.32

Birr Town Council

203.95

192.58

206.93

Bray Town Council

158.64

161.82

176.70

Buncrana Town Council

247.29

260.60

277.05

Bundoran Town Council

340.29

351.79

374.00

Carlow Town Council

128.93

133.76

142.20

Carrickmacross Town Council

95.68

97.76

107.38

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council

507.77

554.00

613.91

Cashel Town Council

253.71

276.93

297.47

Castlebar Town Council

95.80

97.21

103.35

Castleblaney Town Council

263.97

262.92

280.38

Cavan Town Council

230.91

218.27

232.05

Clonakilty Town Council

172.66

166.31

176.81

Clones Town Council

290.26

360.93

399.96

Cobh Town Council

173.15

188.28

203.01

Dundalk Town Council

180.66

180.32

192.86

Dungarvan Town Council

136.51

132.59

140.96

Ennis Town Council

122.76

120.63

128.24

Enniscorthy Town Council

311.47

380.20

404.20

Fermoy Town Council

356.93

378.78

402.70

Kells Town Council

184.74

218.38

233.93

Killarney Town Council

138.99

132.29

143.90

Kilrush Town Council

216.96

233.38

254.25

Kinsale Town Council

175.68

182.31

193.82

Letterkenny Town Council

137.92

78.01

82.94

Listowel Town Council

202.53

199.99

215.63

Longford Town Council

171.44

161.49

171.69

Macroom Town Council

202.45

181.15

192.59

Mallow Town Council

147.85

140.59

149.46

Midleton Town Council

134.17

143.97

153.06

Monaghan Town Council

195.60

190.01

202.01

Naas Town Council

70.96

70.96

75.44

Navan Town Council

157.49

154.50

166.14

Nenagh Town Council

172.66

150.63

161.53

New Ross Town Council

188.14

208.08

220.94

Skibbereen Town Council

214.18

192.57

204.73

Templemore Town Council

268.51

277.02

305.27

Thurles Town Council

134.65

144.84

156.52

Tipperary Town Council

172.70

195.45

207.79

Tralee Town Council

152.55

161.47

171.66

Trim Town Council

370.88

413.89

447.27

Tullamore Town Council

122.19

121.01

128.64

Westport Town Council

153.57

166.13

176.62

Wicklow Town Council

215.67

235.87

250.76

Youghal Town Council

177.09

181.25

192.70

Local Authority Commercial Rates Income

Local Authority

2005*

2006*

2007**

County Councils

Carlow

4,021,929

4,174,443

4,338,790

Cavan

6,648,542

7,816,388

7,850,300

Clare

27,326,573

29,800,037

32,251,578

Cork

74,190,462

81,469,053

84,205,300

Donegal

16,483,020

18,186,169

19,246,562

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

66,670,935

81,288,276

80,486,900

Fingal

80,617,227

95,168,475

102,783,400

Galway

14,186,112

15,889,061

18,851,871

Kerry

14,716,331

15,783,883

16,562,139

Kildare

27,061,388

32,286,656

34,313,378

Kilkenny

8,321,511

9,421,725

10,461,328

Laois

6,982,372

8,057,640

8,794,000

Leitrim

2,955,031

3,474,163

3,601,626

Limerick

22,084,226

23,948,427

25,861,056

Longford

3,746,626

3,782,333

4,034,453

Louth

5,546,049

6,538,226

7,039,449

Mayo

10,951,080

11,590,011

12,236,954

Meath

14,082,903

16,520,760

18,572,451

Monaghan

4,590,157

5,146,116

5,401,922

Offaly

5,385,673

6,666,450

7,013,276

Roscommon

4,600,257

7,574,061

8,740,000

Sligo

6,321,598

3,916,266

4,108,154

Sth Dublin

88,098,554

106,133,776

114,155,640

Tipperary North

3,473,854

5,966,115

6,290,259

Tipperary South

5,741,666

6,069,894

6,510,734

Waterford

4,526,603

5,064,639

5,307,876

Westmeath

5,690,415

6,650,067

7,167,624

Wexford

13,855,498

15,471,563

16,035,757

Wicklow

9,501,302

11,064,006

12,812,868

City Councils

Cork

48,555,922

53,284,561

56,492,400

Dublin

258,350,577

285,098,653

282,939,580

Galway

22,426,252

26,419,667

27,389,462

Limerick

24,430,334

26,107,115

26,962,245

Waterford

15,877,258

17,263,537

18,512,008

Borough Councils

Clonmel

4,091,644

4,243,773

4,618,308

Drogheda

8,090,290

9,158,381

10,480,673

Kilkenny

3,915,526

4,411,889

4,767,521

Sligo

5,710,458

6,216,653

6,438,999

Wexford

2,716,576

3,090,617

3,537,183

Town Councils

Arklow

1,673,038

1,924,324

2,017,723

Athlone

2,601,102

2,985,598

3,218,308

Athy

1,284,045

1,431,904

1,862,540

Ballina

2,878,052

3,148,348

2,782,701

Ballinasloe

1,135,195

1,252,249

1,347,852

Birr

982,071

1,056,698

1,050,940

Bray

4,836,642

5,541,468

5,418,432

Buncrana

1,108,377

1,204,549

1,270,856

Bundoran

852,588

863,101

878,099

Carlow

4,202,979

4,887,294

5,247,739

Carrickmacross

1,131,942

1,191,676

1,221,105

Carrick-On-Suir

626,797

718,345

713,572

Cashel

444,160

486,274

528,667

Castlebar

2,546,041

3,050,959

3,011,425

Castleblayney

606,344

633,823

739,345

Cavan

1,436,052

1,514,042

1,524,637

Clonakilty

1,071,907

1,167,969

1,104,412

Clones

402,767

415,014

416,607

Cobh

685,772

780,830

781,903

Dundalk

10,175,194

11,026,702

12,083,473

Dungarvan

2,261,861

2,441,373

2,541,258

Ennis

3,688,953

4,291,811

4,584,333

Enniscorthy

1,125,537

1,274,596

1,400,998

Fermoy

890,362

941,370

919,937

Kells

554,977

584,605

634,468

Killarney

5,264,079

5,780,146

7,030,133

Kilrush

520,761

545,929

564,627

Kinsale

864,798

956,712

1,007,606

Letterkenny

3,535,445

4,451,642

4,497,100

Listowel

1,394,297

1,496,101

1,433,353

Longford

1,816,576

2,271,363

2,474,348

Macroom

622,827

635,861

692,700

Mallow

2,117,196

2,135,978

2,155,080

Midleton

1,289,865

1,499,648

1,520,013

Monaghan

2,544,402

2,867,248

2,971,419

Naas

4,732,328

5,351,713

5,931,827

Navan

1,718,511

1,793,911

2,231,746

Nenagh

2,596,764

2,772,218

3,176,872

New Ross

980,868

1,002,918

1,065,674

Skibbereen

848,976

950,255

899,070

Templemore

360,544

360,499

392,759

Thurles

1,904,740

2,043,420

2,088,000

Tipperary

1,003,510

1,078,756

1,180,782

Tralee

6,794,840

7,448,376

7,609,693

Trim

485,828

552,973

742,571

Tullamore

2,898,726

3,653,586

3,806,680

Westport

2,278,756

2,497,912

2,483,765

Wicklow

1,056,994

1,250,844

1,360,924

Youghal

1,190,129

1,285,564

1,246,000

Total

1,050,567,247

1,189,712,021

1,243,038,096

*2005 & 2006 Source: Local Authority Financial Outturns.

**2007 Source: 2007 Local Authority Budgets.

Water Quality.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

235 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the continuing partial boil notice on the public water supply in Ennis, County Clare, and that this boil notice is to remain until a permanent water treatment plant is built; his views on allocating funding to the local authority in order to introduce a subsidised bottled water scheme to those dependant on the Ennis water supply until such time as the permanent water treatment plant is operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5846/08]

Joe Carey

Ceist:

236 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will honour in full the pre-election promise and allocate Clare County Council and Ennis Town Council the money required to pay for the temporary water treatment plant for the Ennis water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5847/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 236 together.

The Ennis Town Water Supply (Treatment) Scheme is being funded under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 and will provide a new water treatment plant for the town. I understand that the scheme is now under construction. Special Local Government Fund assistance has been made available in 2006 and 2007 to assist Clare County Council in meeting the domestic share of the operational costs of the temporary water treatment plant put in place in Ennis pending completion of the substantive scheme. Consideration will be given to a further such allocation in 2008. It is a matter for Clare County Council, as the water services authority, to determine whether exceptional arrangements are necessary to meet the requirements of the limited categories of consumers affected by any continuing requirement to boil drinking water.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

237 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of wastewater and sewage sludge being imported to Tipperary south; if all this sludge is licensed; the local authorities it comes from; the local authorities to which it is exported to afterwards; and the locations of where in Tipperary south it is treated. [5850/08]

Under the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998, as amended by the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 2001, a supplier of sewage sludge for use in agriculture is required to notify the local authority in whose functional area the sludge is to be used of details of the quantities of sludge produced, the composition of the sludge, the treatment which the sludge has undergone, the name and address of each recipient of the sludge and the location of each site where the sludge is to be used, for entry in the sludge register which the local authority is required to keep at its offices. This information is not available in my Department but may be obtained from the local authority or local authorities involved. There is no requirement for the licensing of sewage sludge for use in agriculture.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

238 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding an upgraded sewerage scheme for Adare, County Limerick. [5855/08]

The combined Adare and Patrickswell Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to start construction in 2008. I approved Limerick County Council's proposals to proceed separately with the Patrickswell element of the scheme in October 2007 because of potential land acquisition delays in Adare. I understand that the Council is now proceeding with arrangements to acquire the necessary lands in Adare and my Department is awaiting revised Contract Documents from the Council for that element of the scheme.

Local Authority Housing.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

239 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding tenders for a sheltered housing complex (details supplied) in County Cork. [5856/08]

An application for funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme towards the provision of 8 units of accommodation has been received from Cork County Council who are responsible for the detailed administration of schemes in their area. Further clarification has been sought from the Council on this proposal and a reply is awaited. When this is to hand, the application will be further considered by my Department and the Council will be advised of the outcome as soon as possible.

Register of Electors.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

240 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that all possible measures were taken to update the election registers in the run up to the last general election; and if he has asked local authorities that clearly had major difficulties with the electoral register, removing thousands off the register in some constituencies, to initiate an investigation into their performance. [5864/08]

In law the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register.

In working to compile the Register for 2007/8, which was in force at the general election last year, local authorities undertook and completed the most extensive registration campaign in decades. On the basis of the work undertaken, I am satisfied that local authorities achieved a significant improvement in the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register compared to previous years. My Department advised local authorities that the approach in respect of the 2008/9 Register should be to maintain and build on the progress they had made. Authorities were required to publish the Register for 2008/9 on 1 February 2008.

Voluntary Housing Associations.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

241 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if public representatives, that is, TDs, county councillors and borough councillors are entitled to be directors of voluntary housing associations and such like organisations as supported through public funding for the provision of homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5869/08]

Bodies seeking to obtain approved status under Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1962 must be constituted as a limited company, or as a society registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies or as a trust incorporated under the Charities Acts. Certain restrictions apply in relation to the election/appointment of directors, trustees or senior officials of such bodies in cases where a potential conflict of interest is likely to arise. Specifically, no individual may be elected or appointed as a director or trustee or senior employee of an approved housing body, or retain such a position, where he or she has any material interest of significance in relation to the income or any other benefit derived from any commercial contract or other arrangements for the construction of houses for the approved housing body, or in the supply of goods and services to the approved housing body.

It is otherwise a matter for the housing bodies themselves to appoint directors or trustees, and there are no terms or conditions under my Department's capital funding schemes which prohibit the appointment of public representatives to these positions.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

242 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if voluntary housing associations are entitled to offer tenancy to applicants other than those registered and approved for housing with a local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5870/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

243 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a voluntary housing association is entitled to access data containing the names and details of approved tenancy applicants in the possession of the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5871/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

245 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has a policy in relation to the allocation of agency housing by local authorities; if his attention has been drawn to a situation that exists for people on a local authority housing list who might have a long-term desire to purchase and own their allocated house but would be precluded from pursuing this option if they accepted an offer of an agency house but would otherwise be allowed to pursue such an option if allocated a regular type local authority house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5910/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242, 243 and 245 together.

The provision of accommodation by approved voluntary and co-operative housing bodies is an integral part of my Department's overall response to delivering on social housing need. Local authorities and approved housing bodies are working in close co-operation to deliver an expanded range of social housing options and a wide range of accommodation types to meet to needs of low-income families and persons with special housing needs. Approved housing bodies are required to consult with the housing authority during the appraisal stage of projects in order to ensure that proposed projects meet the authority's strategic housing objectives and identified local need. To this end, approved housing bodies must be fully appraised of the social housing need for the area in question and provided with details of eligible tenants, drawn from the social housing waiting list.

Funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available to approved housing bodies where all of the tenants are drawn from the local authority waiting list. In the case of special needs housing, including housing for the elderly, the homeless and persons with a disability, approved housing bodies may nominate up to 25% of tenants from outside of the waiting list. In these circumstances, funding will be limited to 95% of approved cost.

There is no provision at present in the voluntary housing schemes for the purchase of individual houses by tenants. However, it was agreed under Housing Policy Framework — Building Sustainable Communities that consideration would be given in consultation with the voluntary and co-operative sector, to pilot a tenant purchase scheme for some new voluntary homes under the schemes. The issues arising in relation to the introduction of such a scheme, including any legislative supports, are being considered in consultation with the Irish Council for Social Housing.

Local Authority Charges.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

244 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the time-scale for establishing the agreed country-wide regime for local authority levies for school waste refuse and water that would result in schools being treated as non-commercial premises and reduce operational charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5907/08]

In regard to waste collection charges the position is that the determination of such charges is a matter for the waste service provider, whether a local authority or a private service provider. I understand that the cost pressures on schools are taken into account by the Department of Education and Science in determining the levels of annual increases in the capitation grants paid to schools to meet their day to day running costs, and that there is a commitment to doubling the capitation grant for primary schools over the next five years.

In relation to school water charges, the Government decided on 4 January 2008 to introduce transitional arrangements for charging recognised schools for water services, pending schools being charged for water services on a full cost recovery and volumetric basis with effect from 1 January 2010.

In summary, for 2007 a flat rate of €3.00 per pupil will apply (bills for 2007 are to be recalculated on this basis and schools given a credit in respect of any excess payment and outstanding bills for 2007 are to be revised on this basis); for 2008 a flat rate of €3.50 per pupil will apply, and for 2009 a flat rate of €4.00 per pupil will apply. The relevant rates for schools receiving a water supply, but not waste water facilities, will be €2.25 in 2007, €2.63 in 2008 and €3.00 in 2009. Apart from any readjustment to arrears for 2007 arising from the recalculation of bills at the rate of €3.00 per pupil, schools are legally liable to pay all other outstanding arrears, regardless of the number of years involved. Schools owing arrears of water charges are being advised to discuss a payment arrangement for the outstanding arrears with the relevant local authority.

Question No. 245 answered with Question No. 242.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

246 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason, in view of the requirements under the Housing Regulations 1980, and Housing (Amendment) Regulations 1992 to hold a tax clearance certificate in order to meet the requirements under the local authority loans scheme, an application certificate is not accepted in lieu of a tax clearance certificate to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations, as is permitted under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5913/08]

The requirements laid down in article 5 of the Housing Regulations 1980 (Amendment) Regulations, 1992 were introduced in order to apply the Department of Finance's tax clearance procedures to applicants for local authority housing loans and persons undertaking any work financed by such loans. There are no proposals, at present, to amend these provisions.

Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 232.

Local Authority Housing.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

248 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the ESB is seeking a payment on deposit of €300 towards an ESB connection for new tenants in the new rental accommodation scheme of allocating tenancies by local authorities and that this matter is a cause of major concern for applicants in that they are unable to meet such requests thus finding themselves in a position of having to consider their position in the scheme; if he has had meetings with the ESB in relation to this problem; the result of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5915/08]

I understand that all new ESB customers, and not just those accommodated through the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), are required to sign up for a Direct Debit to pay their bills, or else to pay a deposit of €300. The levying of such charges is a matter for the ESB and I have no function in that regard.

Nevertheless it should be noted that in transferring tenants to RAS, the general policy of local authorities is to advise tenants to sign up for Direct Debit. In cases where tenants are unable to do so, they can seek support from the HSE Community Welfare Service. I am advised that the issue of the €300 deposit has not impinged on the volume of cases transferring to RAS.

North-South Co-operation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

249 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action, in chronological order, he, his Department, or the North-South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation on inland fisheries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5741/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

252 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action, in chronological order, he, his Department or the North-South Ministerial Council have taken for North-South co-operation on aquaculture and the marine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5759/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 252 together.

My Department, along with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland, are joint sponsoring Departments of the Loughs Agency of the Foyle Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission, which is a North South Body set up under the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999. The Loughs Agency took over the functions of the Foyle Fisheries Commission, and is responsible for the conservation, protection and improvement of the fisheries in the Foyle and Carlingford areas. It is required to promote the development of Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough for commercial and recreational purposes in the area of marine, fishery and aquaculture matters, including the development and the licensing of aquaculture.

Cooperation at Department level is ongoing on a continuous basis. This is necessary to affect the corporate governance and policy direction of the Agency. Cooperation at Ministerial level is facilitated through the North South Ministerial Council, Aquaculture & Marine Sector meeting, the first of which, since restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, was held on 21 November 2007. The Council noted progress made since the last meeting in 2002 and took the opportunity to discuss cooperation in the aquaculture and marine sector specifically by the Loughs Agency. At our meeting the Ministers welcomed the passing of legislation in both jurisdictions in 2007, which provided the Loughs Agency with the powers to regulate aquaculture and wild shell fisheries in both the Foyle and Carlingford areas. We also welcomed the introduction of a hardship package to provide a measure of relief to those affected by the cessation of the commercial salmon fishing in the Foyle area.

The Council also noted the Agency's future plans in the Aquaculture and Marine Sector for the period 2008-2010 including actions to maintain the sustainability of fisheries in both the Carlingford and Foyle catchments; the introduction of a regulatory and licensing regime for aquaculture in the Foyle and Carlingford Areas; the improvement of the angling licensing system; bringing forward a Marine Tourism Development Strategy; and we also approved the Loughs Agency's Corporate Plan for the period 2008-2010 and Business Plan for 2008. I attended the Council meeting and the Northern Ireland Executive was represented by Minister Michelle Gildernew and Minister Ian Paisley Junior.

Ongoing informal cooperation at official level between my Department and the relevant Departments in Northern Ireland responsible for inland fisheries matters as well as State agencies on both sides of the border continues in the areas of policy, fisheries management and research. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has broader responsibility for north/south cooperation in relation to aquaculture and likewise, the Department of Transport in relation to marine issues.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

250 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the efforts made to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland in the area of electricity connectivity, in particular the region west of the Bann, which includes Derry city and Letterkenny; if the North-South Ministerial Council deems such connectivity as a matter of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South, under strand two of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5742/08]

While the energy sector is outside the formal work programme of the North South Ministerial Council established under the Good Friday Agreement, there has been excellent co-operation on energy matters between the two administrations, North and South, over recent years. My Department is working closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to progress cooperation on energy matters to mutual economic and social benefit under the All-Island Energy Market Development Framework published jointly in 2004.

The successful launch of the Single Electricity Market on November 1st 2007 has established a wholesale electricity market on an all-island basis which will enhance competition and security of supply in the interests of business and consumers. The Single Electricity Market is underpinned by the physical interconnection between the electricity systems North and South. Currently there is one major interconnector between the two grids. The interconnector from Louth to Tandragee consists of a 275 kV double circuit overhead line with a maximum capacity of approximately 300MW. Work on a second major North-South electricity interconnector which will double transfer capacity is underway and is due for completion by 2012. The project is being undertaken by the Transmission System Operators, EirGrid in the South and SONI in the North.

In relation to connectivity in the North West, there are 110 kV cross border links between Letterkenny and Strabane and Enniskillen and Corraclassy. These act as backup support to the networks on both sides of the border. EirGrid has recently secured approval from the EU Commission to fund feasibility studies to investigate possible future cross border interconnection. Work will begin on the new studies shortly.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

251 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the efforts made to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland in the area of broadband connectivity, in particular the region west of the Bann, which includes Derry city and Letterkenny; if the North-South Ministerial Council deems such connectivity as a matter of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South, under strand two of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5750/08]

Although the broadband sector is outside the formal work programme of the North South Ministerial Council, my Department and Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) enjoy an excellent working relationship. My Department is involved as a joint partner in cooperation with DETI in a number of broadband projects, which take place under the EU funded Interreg Cross Border Cooperation Programme. This is governed by the Special EU Programmes Body which was set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

Under the Interreg III Cross Border Programme 2000-2006, cooperation between the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) and DETI took place on the six projects outlined below. The amounts shown below are the total cost or expenditure on each project, including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and DETI and DCENR match funding contributions. Note that the first two projects are located in the North West region of Ireland.

1. Niran/HEAnet project — €506,000

This project links Letterkenny Institute of Technology to the Northern Ireland Regional Area Networking (NIRAN) Derry network. €506,000 of Interreg funding was granted to the two third level bodies that manage the Third Level network in the North West: NIRAN and HEAnet, (the Republic's National Education and Research Network). This means that the entire HEAnet Third Level education and research network in the South is connected to Northern Ireland's equivalent NIRAN network. The then Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment launched the project on October 9th 2006.

2. Community Network Services project — €250,000

The CNS project, which was approved for €250,000 Interreg funding, aims to bring broadband to large swathes of Donegal, to enable the communities to communicate more efficiently with each other. With a large migratory workforce along the Donegal border, this proposal is seen as having a genuine cross border benefit in the North West despite the infrastructure being wholly located in Donegal (bridging the digital divide). Works are ongoing on this project.

3. Bytel Broadband link between Belfast and Dublin — €4.3m

The Bytel project provided an additional 2.5 GB service between Belfast and Dublin. There are break-out points in Dundalk, Drogheda, Armagh and Newry, with further optional break out points costed at about €15,000. The project is price competitive for the leased line business and has removed the border as an international barrier. A backhaul link has also been created from Monaghan via Armagh for the Monaghan Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and a revenue sharing deal has been agreed between Bytel and e-Net which manages the Monaghan MAN.

4. Blackwater Valley — €163,000

This is a community broadband initiative established to provide broadband in the South Tyrone/North Monaghan area.

5. Armagh Monaghan Digital Corridor (AMDC) — €962,000

The AMDC project links Armagh and Monaghan with a 1 GB broadband service to help create a digital cross border corridor. Bytel won the contract and the service went live in mid October 2006. There is extra capacity to connect the Monaghan MAN into Armagh.

6.1 Broadband Awareness Campaign — €883,000 (Phase 1)

Interreg allocated €553,000 to the Telecommunication measure to fund a television information campaign to promote awareness of what broadband is. The adverts went live on July 10th 2006 and were directed at the SME and residential users. The original allocation of €533,000 was supplemented by an additional €350,000 Interreg funding to extend the broadband awareness campaign until the end of 2006. This campaign was run by the Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources with a company called Index, which won the tender for this.

6.2 Make IT Secure Campaign — (Phase 2 of Broadband Awareness Campaign)

€800,000 of ERDF and Public match funding, with an additional €200,000 of private sector match funding. Phase 2 of the broadband awareness campaign began on 11 February 2008, and features a shift in emphasis from the promotion of broadband to the promotion of safe use of broadband and internet technologies. The Department of Finance & Personnel Northern Ireland (DFP NI) supported my Department to run the "Make IT Secure" project as a cross border campaign and thus it became eligible for Interreg funding. As with the Broadband Awareness Campaign, my Department is managing this project. The campaign, which is currently running with television advertisements etc, focuses on the same areas as previous "Make IT Secure" type campaigns, and will also cover social networking. Aside from DFP NI, new private sector partners are involved to augment the existing industry coalition which is providing match funding for this project.

International Connectivity project under the Interreg IV Programme, 2007-2013

Under the Interreg IV Cross Border Programme 2007-2013, a proposal for an International Connectivity project was approved for €30m Interreg funding by the project Steering Committee on 25th January 2008. This would provide a direct international telecoms link between the North West of Ireland and North America by bringing an existing transatlantic submarine telecoms cable onshore in Northern Ireland to an exchange near Derry, which would be linked to the Letterkenny area. EU State Aids approval is required for this project before it can be implemented as proposed in 2009.

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 249.

Departmental Programmes.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

253 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for funding Leader companies under his Department’s new scheme; the criteria for drawing down funding; the way the scheme will benefit coastal community groups; the way this scheme will directly benefit fishermen who have signed up to the hardship scheme following the banning of drift net fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5764/08]

The Community Support Scheme, recommended by the Report of the Independent Group, has been drafted to focus primarily on those communities where commercial salmon fishing has been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on the economic and social fabric, for example, Gaeltacht areas.

The scheme is to be administered by the LEADER companies under the supervision of my Department in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA). Available funds will be allocated to those affected fishery districts, proportionate to the impact of the cessation of the mixed stock fishery. Consultations with the LEADER companies, conducted through DCRGA, also informed the most effective distribution of funds. The scheme will operate over two years (2008-2009). The Scheme is not directed at commercial licence holders who have already availed of payments from the Salmon Hardship Fund but rather at the development of additional economic opportunities for crews and employees in the processing and ancillary sectors in the above mentioned communities. Full details of the scheme will be published shortly.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

254 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when it is proposed to provide the Menlough area of County Galway with broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5718/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

256 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason people living in a townland (details supplied) have no broadband or mobile phone coverage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5744/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 256 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband and mobile telephony, is in the first instance a matter for the private sector. Telecommunication service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers. While I have no plans to intervene in the mobile telephony market, the widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is underway. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in County Galway are met. The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates were, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

Following the withdrawal of the IFA/Motorola Consortium as a candidate the remaining three candidates have now commenced "Competitive Dialogue" with my Department and are developing their proposed solutions to meet my Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008, with roll out to commence as soon as possible thereafter, subject to agreement with the chosen candidate.

Coal Imports.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

255 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the guidelines set out by his Department on the import of coal to Ireland; the procedure an applicant should follow to obtain the necessary permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5730/08]

I advise the Deputy that I have no function in relation to the importation of coal.

Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 254.